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TBR News January 12, 2019

Jan 12 2019

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

Washington, D.C. January 12, 2019:” The reports that Trump had been taken over by Russian intelligence and was operating under their orders are not new and recently information emerged from Russia that confirmed this. It was turned over to competent authority for verification and soon we will be hearing more of this. If one takes all of Trump’s apparently bizarre behavior and studies it, it is obvious that what he has been doing is creating world-wide negativity against the United States as a world power and given his corruption and many visits to Russia, the conclusions are clear.”

 

 

  • 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 12
  • FBI reportedly opened inquiry into whether Trump was working for Russia
  • French police brace for ninth ‘yellow vest’ weekend protests
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • RAF veteran ‘admitted 1961 killing of UN secretary general’
  • Hammersköld Assassination background
  • Bitcoin is the greatest scam in history

 

815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 12

November 15, 2018

by Daniel Dale Washington Bureau Chief

Toronto Star

WASHINGTON—It took Donald Trump until the 286th day of his presidency to make 815 false claims.

He just made another 815 false claims in a month.

In the 31 days leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Trump went on a lying spree like we have never seen before even from him — an outrageous barrage of serial dishonesty in which he obliterated all of his old records.

How bad have these recent weeks been?

  • Trump made 664 false claims in October. That was double his previous record for a calendar month, 320 in August.
  • Trump averaged 26.3 false claims per day in the month leading up to the midterm on Nov. 6. In 2017, he averaged 2.9 per day.
  • Trump made more false claims in the two months leading up to the midterms (1,176), than he did in all of 2017 (1,011).
  • The three most dishonest single days of Trump’s presidency were the three days leading up to the midterms: 74 on election eve, Nov. 5; 58 on Nov. 3; 54 on Nov. 4.

As always, Trump was being more frequently dishonest in part because he was simply speaking more. He had three campaign rallies on Nov. 5, the day before he set the record, and eight more rallies over the previous five days.

But it was not only quantity. Trump packed his rally speeches with big new lies, repeatedly reciting wildly inaccurate claims about migrants, Democrats’ views on immigration and health care, and his own record. Unlike many of his lies, lots of these ones were written into the text of his speeches.

Trump is now up to 3,749 false claims for the first 661 days of his presidency, an average of 4.4 per day.

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

  • Oct 24, 2018

“…End visa lottery, the worst. Pick it out of a hat. Pick it out of a hat. How about that? Visa lottery. We have a lottery. A lottery for people coming to the United States. I don’t think those countries are putting their finest in the lottery. We say, how do these people come here? ‘We got them in the lottery.’ Oh, great.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: This is, as usual, an inaccurate description of the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Contrary to Trump’s claim foreign “put” people in a lottery to get rid of their bad apples, would-be immigrants sign up on their own, as individuals, of their own free will, because they want to immigrate.

“And we have recognized the capital of Israel and opened the American embassy in Jerusalem. And together we have made extraordinary progress, and we’re just getting started. You know, the embassy was supposed to cost $1.1 billion, you know that, right?…But it was supposed to cost $1.1 billion, $1.1 billion. And one of the generals walked into my — it’s true, would you sign this? I started — I signed ‘Donald’ — and I said, ‘By the way, what is it I’m signing?’ You know, I sign a lot of papers. Scary, you’re signing so many papers. I said, ‘What is this?’ ‘Sir, we’re building the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.’ ‘Oh, how much is it?’ ‘$1.1 billion, sir.’ How the hell do you build 1.1 — we’re building a one-story building. Any builders in here from Wisconsin? You’d do it for about $200,000, right? Oh, it’s true. I said, ‘How do you spend $1.1 billion on a one-story structure?’ ‘Sir, I don’t know, but that’s what they say it’s going to cost.’ I say, ‘Wait a minute, I can’t sign it.’ In fact, it’s actually half-signed. No, it’s signed half. It just says Donald. I didn’t even get the J for John. Just says Donald and then you see it’s a dead stop. I said, I’m not signing it. And I called up a great man, David Friedman, one of the most successful lawyers in New York. He’s the ambassador to Israel. I said, ‘David, they want us to buy this unbelievably expensive site and they want us to build a building that’s going to cost $1.1 billion. Number one, it probably will take 25 years. It’ll never happen. Let’s get this thing done immediately.’ Is there anything — he said, ‘Sir, can I call you back?’ Calls me back four days later, and he says, ‘Sir, we own the best site in Jerusalem. We don’t have to buy a site. We have the best site. On the site setback, which they want for safety, setback is a building, and the building is nice, but the best location. I think I can renovate the building, sir, and I can do it for less than $200,000.’ True. True story. That’s a true story. ‘I can do it for less than $200,000.’ First time in my life ever, I think it’s the first time, I said, David, that’s too little. I said, ‘It doesn’t sound right. I said, spend $400,000 or $500,000, OK?’ It’s too little. And we went out and we built the most beautiful building for $500,000.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The renovations required by the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will cost far more than $500,000. ABC News reported in July: “Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an ‘addition and compound security upgrades’ at the embassy. These updates will be made to the former consular building in Jerusalem — the embassy’s temporary location.” The ABC article continued: “A State Department official told ABC News today that President Trump’s estimates only factored in that first phase of modifications to the former consular building, not this second round of renovation.”

“We have 32,000 soldiers over there (in South Korea) that they don’t pay for. Figure that one.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The U.S. had 26,045 active duty troops in South Korea and 28,598 military personnel there in total as of June 2018, according to the latest report from the military’s Defense Manpower Data Center.

“And Prime Minister Abe, prime minister of Japan, great guy, fantastic man, actually. Just won a big election. But I said it to him. Japan’s an immensely wealthy nation. They send millions and millions of cars to the United States, and they also build them in the United States. I like them better, by the way. I think they’re much nicer. But I said to Prime Minister Abe, I said, look, we’re taking care of your military. We help you a lot with North Korea. They’re not sending missiles over Japan. I did that. That’s a pretty good — wouldn’t you say? That’s pretty good, right? That’s a good thing. But you’re only paying for a percentage of your military. We’re doing the rest. You’ve got to really help us out. It’s not fair. And he looked at me, and he didn’t say anything. I said, ‘Has anyone ever asked you to do this before?’ He goes, ‘No.’”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The fact-checkers at the Daily Caller News Foundation, which is friendly to Trump, found this to be false. Jeffrey W. Hornung, a RAND Corporation political scientist specializing in Japanese security, told the Foundation: “The US does not contribute to this (Japan’s military budget); this is solely funded by Japanese taxpayers. Thus, the statement that the US subsidizes Japan’s defense is inaccurate.” The Foundation continued: “It is unclear how Trump came up with the 70 per cent figure. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.”

“On trade, we lost $807 billion. Think of it. Eight hundred — who made these deals?”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The U.S. had a $566 billion trade deficit in 2017; it was $800 billion only if you ignore trade in services and look solely at trade in goods, as Trump habitually does without saying he is doing so. The U.S. had a goods-trade deficit of $810 billion in 2017, a services-trade surplus of $244 billion.

“We’ve also taken the toughest ever action to crack down on China’s abusive trade practices. They want to make a deal. And I said, you’re not ready yet. It’s true. They want to make a deal. And President Xi is a great person, and, hopefully, we’ll do something soon or someday. But, you know, $500 billion has been taken out of this country for years every year, $500 billion.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

 

“African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest rates ever recorded. That’s a tough soundbite.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Trump was correct about the first two, incorrect about the third. The Asian-American unemployment rate briefly dropped to a low, 2.0 per cent, in May — a low, at least, since the government began issuing Asian-American data in 2000 — but the most recent rate at the time Trump spoke, for September, was 3.5 per cent. (It fell to 3.2 per cent for October.) This was higher than the rate in Obama’s last full month in office — 2.8 per cent in December 2016 — and in multiple months of George W. Bush’s second term.

“We’ve created half a million new manufacturing jobs. You remember when the previous administration said you can’t have manufacturing jobs anymore. I used to say, what does he mean by that? By the way, I hate to say it, these are our best jobs. These are our best jobs. These are great jobs, and they’re very important jobs for our country. But remember they said, you need a magic wand. A magic wand. I guess we have a magic wand, right? In fact, now the number is almost 600,000, and that’s since our election.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The economy added 416,000 manufacturing jobs between Jan. 2017 and Oct. 2018. (It’s 446,000 manufacturing jobs if, like Trump, you start counting the month of the election, Nov. 2016, even though Obama was in office until late January 2017.) Regardless, the Obama administration never said “nobody’s manufacturing anymore.” Rather, at a televised PBS town hall in Elkhart, Indiana in 2016, Obama said that certain manufacturing jobs “are just not going to come back” — but also boasted that some manufacturers are indeed “coming back to the United States,” that “we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been president than any time since the 1990s,” and that “we actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today, than we’ve had in most of our history.” Obama did mock Trump for Trump’s campaign claims that he was going to bring back manufacturing jobs that had been outsourced to Mexico, saying: “And when somebody says — like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for — that he’s going to bring all these jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it. He just says, ‘Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.’ Well, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is he doesn’t have an answer.” But, again, Obama made clear that he was talking about a certain segment of manufacturing jobs, not all of them.

“As we speak, the Democrat Party is openly encouraging caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to violate our laws and break into our country.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: There is no basis for this claim.

“The governor, who’s trying to become the next governor of the state of California? He wants open borders — think of this, just think of this — he wants open borders, everybody can come to California. And he wants to give you free health care, free education, driver’s licenses. I said the other night jokingly probably a Rolls-Royce. And one of these people said, ‘He said he’s going to give them a Rolls-Royce. And he did not say that, the governor never…’ You can’t joke with these people. You can’t be even a little sarcastic. I said, ‘They want to supply a Rolls-Royce.’ And they actually said, one of them, just one — they want to supply a Rolls-Royce. They said, ‘The governor of California never said that.’ They can’t take a joke. But maybe they will start taking a joke and maybe we’re going to be a lot better off when they do.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: This is not what happened. At a rally in Arizona on Oct. 19, Trump did joke about Democrats wanting to give Rolls-Royces to illegal immigrants. But the next day, at a rally in Nevada, he changed the claim from a joke to a statement of fact, saying: “They want to give them cars, they want to give them driver’s licenses. I said last night, we did a great — we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night, and I said — I said last night, what kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?” It was this claim that reporters said was untrue, not the joke.

“The governor, who’s trying to become the next governor of the state of California? He wants open borders — think of this, just think of this — he wants open borders, everybody can come to California.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Democratic California governor candidate Gavin Newsom has indeed endorsed the idea of providing health insurance to illegal immigrants. He has not, however, called for “open borders.”

“We want to take care of our veterans. We want to get our veterans — you know, we did something for our veterans nobody thought was possible. We got Veterans Choice, where if they’re not being taken care of, if they’re not being taken care of, they go out to a private doctor, Veterans Choice. Took 44 years, and Ryan and all of these incredible people that we just introduced, they helped every one of them.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The Veterans Choice health program was passed and created in 2014 under Obama. The law Trump signed in 2018, the VA MISSION Act, modified the Choice program.

“We’ve gotten rid of a lot of different elements of Obamacare. We had it beaten, but we got no Democrat votes. Not one. And we had it repealed and replaced, but essentially we’ve dismantled it. We got rid of so much and so many bad elements of it. It’s been brought down to size.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Trump’s claim that he “had it repealed and replaced” was highly misleading; as he implicitly made clear elsewhere in this paragraph, Obamacare was not repealed and replaced. (His comments were a bit like a losing hockey team saying “we won the Stanley Cup, we just didn’t get the overtime goal in Game 7.”) The other part of Trump’s statement was also inaccurate: he has not “essentially” dismantled Obamacare. Trump has weakened Obamacare in several ways, most notably by eliminating the “individual mandate” that required people to obtain health insurance, but the law is far from dead. Trump did not eliminate Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces that allow other uninsured people to buy insurance, or the subsidies that help many of them make the purchases.

“And Republicans will always protect, as Leah said, Americans with pre-existing conditions, 100 per cent. One hundred per cent. And we’ve done a great job.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: This claim is belied by Republicans’ actions. The party has tried repeatedly during Trump’s presidency to replace Obamacare with a law that would give insurers more freedom to discriminate against people with pre-existing health conditions. As part of a Republican lawsuit to try to get Obamacare struck down, Trump’s administration is formally arguing that the law’s protections for pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional and should be voided. Trump has not said what he would like to replace these protections with.

“And Tony Evers wants to get illegal aliens to flood into Wisconsin to get free public benefits funded by you, the American taxpayer.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin, wants no such thing.

“Tammy Baldwin — and this is a bad time for being in favor of open borders, but that’s what she’s in favor of. She wants open borders. She wants people to pour into our country. Can’t do that. Can’t do that, Wisconsin.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Democrats in general and Baldwin in particular do not support open borders. Most of them support a less aggressive immigration policy than the one Trump advocates, but they are not calling for people to be able to walk across from Mexico unbothered.

“She (Tammy Baldwin) voted against the thing that we’re proud to have started and we’re moving along rapidly, the border wall.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Construction on Trump’s border wall has not started, and there is no basis for the claim that “San Diego is almost completed.” When Trump has claimed in the past that wall construction has begun, he has appeared to be referring to projects in which existing fencing is being replaced. The $1.6 billion Congress allocated to border projects in 2018 is not for the type of giant concrete wall Trump has proposed: spending on that kind of wall is expressly prohibited in the legislation, and much of the congressional allocation is for replacement and reinforcement projects rather than new construction.

“You know, many presidents don’t get a chance to put a Supreme Court justice on. Here we are, less than two years, we’ve put two of them on.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Only four presidents haven’t had a chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice. Two of them, Zachary Taylor and William Henry Harrison, died early in their time in office.

“I said, ‘Judge, I’m going to choose you for the United States Supreme Court. Now, Judge, this is going to go so fast, so easy, you’re so perfect. You don’t have a thing wrong. You’re the best student, number one in his class all over the place. You’re the best — a great intellect, a great scholar, your family, your beautiful wife, your beautiful daughters, everyone is so perfect. This is going to go so easy, so fast.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Kavanaugh was not “first in his class all over the place.” As a Yale undergraduate, Kavanaugh graduated cum laude, which means he was not first in his class; other students graduated summa cum laude and magna cum laude. Yale Law School’s grading system does not allow the calculation of class rankings at all.

“NAFTA was a disaster. It was a bad deal from day one. It should have been terminated on day two. And 25 years later, I get it terminated, OK? And the new USMCA, I like that name. USMCA. It works. Now I say it like routinely. At first we had to sort of give it a little thought. Now it’s very routine. USMCA.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Trump has not terminated NAFTA, though he repeatedly threatened to do so. Instead, he arrived at an agreement with Canada and Mexico on an update to NAFTA. He has rebranded the agreement as the USMCA, but that isn’t the same as termination — as evidenced by the fact that the original NAFTA will continue to be in effect until the update is ratified.

“… passed a massive tax cut for working families. And we will soon follow it up with another 10 per cent tax cut for the middle class. That’s all for the middle class. That’s on top of the tax cut we got for the middle class and for business. It’s going to be great.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: We do not usually fact-check promises of future action, but there was no sign that Republicans were actually pursuing an additional 10 per cent tax cut for the middle class; Trump suddenly introduced this claim two weeks before the election, with no details attached. We will amend this item if he proves serious.

“Manufacturing confidence has reached an all-time high in the history of our country. I think it’s now 38 years old, this poll. It’s a long time, could be longer…”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey is 20 years old, not 38 years old or older.

“The unemployment rate just fell to the lowest level in over 50 years. Five-oh years. Fifty.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: The unemployment rate, 3.7 per cent, is the lowest in 49 years, since 1969. We would not count this as false if Trump rounded to “50 years,” but “over” 50 years is objectively false.

“Democrats believe in catch-and-release. You know what that is, right? That’s you catch a person coming across our border illegally. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘My name is so-and-so.’ ‘Well, do me a favor, write it down.’ ‘Would you show up in about three or four years for a court case?’ ‘Yes, I’ll show up.’ And we never see them again! We never see them.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: “Never” is a severe exaggeration. The Justice Department says 72 per cent of people showed up for their immigration court hearings in 2017. For asylum seekers in particular, it was 89 per cent. A 2017 report released by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates a hard line on illegal immigration, concluded that 37 per cent of people who were free pending trial did not show up for hearings over the past two decades. The author of the report, a former immigration judge, said the number was 39 per cent in 2016. In other words, even according to vehement opponents of illegal immigration, most unauthorized immigrants are indeed showing up for court.

“And wait ’til you see what we’re doing with our border over the next few weeks. As you know, we started the wall, $1.6 billion, another $1.6 billion, and we have another, but we want to build it very quickly all at one time, and we’ll get it done.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: Construction on Trump’s border wall has not started, and Trump has not secured $4.8 billion for the wall. When Trump has claimed in the past that wall construction has begun, he has appeared to be referring to projects in which existing fencing is being replaced. The $1.6 billion Congress allocated to border projects in 2018 is not for the type of giant concrete wall Trump has proposed: spending on that kind of wall is expressly prohibited in the legislation, and much of the congressional allocation is for replacement and reinforcement projects rather than new construction. Trump has requested another $1.6 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, but this has not yet been approved, much less spent. In these comments, Trump also alluded to a third $1.6 billion that does not exist.

“We’re going to keep it that way. Republicans want to create better health care through more choice, lower drug prices — and you will see, very soon, drug prices will go plunging downward. You wait, you watch. It’s all in motion.”

Source: Campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin

in fact: There was no evidence for this claim. Prescription drug prices are widely expected to keep rising.

 

FBI reportedly opened inquiry into whether Trump was working for Russia

Firing of James Comey prompted investigation into whether Trump was working against American interests, the New York Times reports

January 11, 2019

by Sam Levin in Oakland

The Guardian

The FBI in May 2017 opened an inquiry into whether Donald Trump was working on behalf of Russia, the New York Times reports.

Citing unnamed former law enforcement officials, the paper reported Friday that in the days after the president fired the former FBI director James Comey, law enforcement officials were so worried about Trump’s behavior that they began investigating whether the president was working against American interests and on behalf of Russia.

Counterintelligence investigators were reportedly considering whether Trump’s actions constituted a national security threat, an extraordinary line of inquiry against a sitting US president. They also sought to determine whether the president was knowingly working for Russia.

The White House on Friday night dismissed the New York Times report as “absurd”.

“Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia,” she added.

Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, also downplayed the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Giuliani told the paper.

Friday’s remarkable report is sure to ramp up the pressure for a White House already feeling the heat from months of investigations. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in August 2018 was convicted of financial crisis and later pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the US and conspiring to obstruct justice. Trump’s longtime lawyer and aide Michael Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to fraud, campaign finance violations and lying under oath.

Manafort was charged as part of the investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, appointed Mueller shortly after Comey’s firing in May 2017 to lead the investigation into Russian meddling and ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Mueller is reportedly also investigating whether the president tried to impede the investigation into Russia’s role in the election.

Mueller took over the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation after being appointed, the New York Times reported, just days after it was first opened. FBI spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report may also raise new questions for congressional investigators probing Russian meddling. Newly in control of the House of Representatives, Democrats have vowed to further scrutinize Trump’s Russia ties.

 

French police brace for ninth ‘yellow vest’ weekend protests

Across France, 80,000 police officers are being mobilized for the ninth weekend of nationwide street protests. President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a three-month public debate have done little to assuage anger.

January 12, 2019

DW

French police brace for ninth ‘yellow vest’ weekend protests

Across France, 80,000 police officers are being mobilized for the ninth weekend of nationwide street protests. President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a three-month public debate have done little to assuage anger.

A small town in France

The town of Bourges in central France became the center of attention before the weekend kicked off after one of the yellow vest organizers told followers on Facebook the town was easy to reach and had a small police presence. By Friday evening, 3,000 people had indicated that they would be heading for Bourges, with a further 13,000 saying they were interested.

Prefect Catherine Ferrier banned gatherings in the town center in response. “It has nothing to do with previous peaceful marches that took place in the city of Bourges,” Ferrier stated.

Bourges’ mayor, Pascal Blanc, has ordered traffic be restricted in the city center and the city hall and museums to be closed on Saturday.

Warning against violence

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned peaceful protesters that they would be “complicit” if they attended marches that turned violent.

New laws, including a register of rioters  similar to those used to control football hooligans, are being planned.

However, without a central leadership or decision-making body, protesters might not concentrate in Bourges. Last month, a protest apparently planned for Versailles was quickly relocated to central Paris.

Call for public debate

Meanwhile, President Macron’s “great national debate” of town hall meetings is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Macron suggested the idea as a solution to complaints that citizens lack a say in debating and setting the political agenda.

Ecological transition, public finances, democracy, and the state’s organization are intended to be the main themes of the consultations and, in a practice dating back to before the French Revolution, “grievance notebooks” have been placed in town halls for citizens to make complaints or suggestions.

But the initiative has already run into trouble after it was reported that the head of the national debates commission, Chantal Jouanno, was being paid €14,666 ($16,820) per month. She withdrew her participation, leaving the government to reorganize the discussions.

The outlook for the debates appears dim, with polling suggesting many people are uninterested in taking part in the town hall meetings or skeptical of how useful they will be.

Since November, protesters’ grievances have broadened beyond the fuel tax increase, which Macron eventually cancelled, to include the president’s alleged elitism and the precarious living standards for many people across the country.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

January 12, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

 

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, on 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 the well-known Washington fix-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.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

Conversation No. 17

Date: Monday, June 24, 1996

Commenced: 11:24 AM CST

Concluded: 12: 05 PM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert. I just got back from a business trip. What’s new inside the Beltway?

RTC: I missed your daily chats, Gregory. How was your trip?

GD: St. Petersburg was great. Moscow is improving from the old days but expensive as Hell and getting to be a Western-style mess. Still, I got to tour the older parts of the Kremlin and look at some of the stock in the military museum there.  Money is necessary to live but collectables are far more interesting. Great art collections in St. Petersburg. Our St. Petersburg is full of ancient retired Jews, hoping the hot sun will extend their petty lives instead of giving them skin cancer.

RTC: Back to your cheerful self, I see. Did you have any trouble going through Immigration? You are on the watch list, you know.

GD: I know. No, I flew with a friend who has a private plane. I never go through the lines getting back. I sent Tom Kimmel a nice postcard from Moscow and put my prints all over the thing. I hope it distracts him.

RTC: What a terrible thing to do, Gregory. They will spend a week testing the card and once they decide it was authentic, they will get our Moscow…I assume you sent it from Moscow…people to check hotel rosters. If they find you, then they’ll check the Immigration records to see when you arrived back here. If they don’t find you and they know you’re back…

GD: Oh, I called Kimmel to cinch this up. He hadn’t gotten my card yet so I told him all about the joys of Moscow. Of course, he probably didn’t believe me but when he gets that card, my I will have so much fun.

RTC: And expect a smarmy call from him asking you about your plane trip. Oh, and what airline did you take? Oh, and where did you land, coming back? My, they have so little imagination, don’t they?

GD: No brains, either. That’s what comes from marrying your sister.

RTC: Gregory, how rude. Can’t you show some class? You know they’re trying to quit all that.

GD: (Laughter) Yes.

RTC: Did you know old Hoover was part black?

GD: Besides being queer?

RTC: In addition to that. But I think Hoover was more asexual that homosexual. A really vicious old man. Do you know how he kept from being kicked out by succeeding Presidents? He kept files on everyone of consequence, both in business, the media and, especially, government. The real dirt as it were. And no one, not the President, the Attorney General or Congress to whom he had to go every year to get the yearly appropriations would every dare to cross J. Edgar. Bobby Kennedy crossed him and Bobby was killed for his trouble. No, Hoover was a vicious man. We, on the other hand, use the same methodology but we are far smoother in applying it. We have a strong influence, for want of a better term, with the banking industry. We have the strongest and most effective influence with the print and television media. We have a much stronger hold on the Hill than Hoover ever had. At times, we’ve had iron control over the Oval Office. Hell, the NSA snoops domestically and we get it all. We have a strong in with the telephone people and we don’t need warrants to listen to anybody, domestically, we want, when we want. Now that the internet is in full bloom, trust it, Gregory, that we will establish our own form of control over that. It’s an invisible control and we never, ever talk about it and anyone who gets really close to the truth gets one in the back of the head from a doped-up burglar. And if something gets loose, who will publish it? Surely not our boys in the media.  A book publisher?  A joke, Gregory. Never. Rather than off some snoop, it’s much more subtle to marginalize them in print, imply they are either liars or nuts and make fun of them. Discredit them so no one will listen to them and then later, the car runs over them in the crosswalk. Oh, sorry about that, officer,  but my foot slipped off the brake. I am desolated by that. And we pay for fixing the front end of his car.

GD: Such an insight. Too much coffee, today, Robert?

RTC: No, just an old man and his memories.

GD: How come you never nailed Hoover about the homosexual business?

RTC: We had a working relationship with him, observed, I might add, in the breach more than not. The old faggot put his men in foreign embassies as legates while our men were the USIA.1  We tried to take them over but it never worked out. We just made their lives miserable instead..

GD: Question here. Now that Communism is effectively dead in Russia and they are imploding, why go after them? Once the Second World War was over, we made friends with the evil Germans and Japanese and built them up again. Why not work with the non-Communist Russians?

RTC: Oh, that drunk Yeltsin was in our pocket but in the case of the former, we did build up their industries but we also owned them, lock, stock and barrel. Germany and Japan were our puppets but the Russians could never be brought to heel because they were too large and too diverse. Also, take into account that our main thesis at the Company was that the evil Russian Communists had to be stopped lest they take over Nova Scotia and bombard New York. With a decades-long mindset like that, you can’t expect our people to change overnight into actually accepting the Russians. Not likely. And besides, we tried to nail down all their oil and gas but we lost hundreds of millions in the process when they got wise and stopped it. We have to find a new international enemy to scare the shit out of American with; an enemy that only the CIA can save us from. The Jews are screaming about the Arabs, who are natural enemies of the Christians. We could dig up historians who will write about the Crusades and Hollywood people who will make movies about the triumph of Christianity over the Crescent. The Jews are getting too much power these days but remember that the Arabs have all the big oil and we need it. Yes, no doubt a resurrection of the Crusades will be next. Without enemies to protect from, we are of no use. Besides, Arabs are highly emotional and we can easily push them into attacking us, hopefully outside the country. Then, the well-oiled machinery that we have perfected over the years can start up and off we go on another adventure.

GD: My, how Heini Müller would have loved to listen in on this conversation. A thoroughgoing pragmatist and you two would have a wonderful time.

RTC: Remember that he and I had occasion to talk while he was here in Washington. I liked him as a matter of fact.

GD: In spite of the propaganda about the Gestapo in overcoats with dogs dragging screaming Jews into the streets, beating them with whips and driving them, in long parades, into the gas chambers? Of course that was wartime fiction but it got the Jews sympathy.

RTC::And don’t forget, Gregory, it also got them political power and money. And they love both. I worked with them on a number of occasions and while they are all smart people, I wouldn’t trust one of them to the corner for a pound of soft soap. During the Stalin era, they spied on us for Josef by the carload, stealing everything, worming their way into Roosevelt’s New Deal and high government office and everything they could lay their hands on, went straight to Moscow. Now, it’s the identical situation but the information goes to Tel Aviv.

GD: Stalin hated them. He didn’t trust them.

RTC: Ah, but he did use them to kill people off, didn’t he?

GD: Yes, but when he was done with them, he planned to make the fictive Hitler’s death programs look like a fairy tale. Going to round up all the Jews and dump them into the wilds of a Siberian winter and let God freeze them all.

RTC: Oh, they won’t ever face up to that one, Gregory. No, Communism was wonderful because they used it as a ladder to climb up to where the white man held sway. Truman initially supported their cause until he found out how they were murdering Palestinians to steal their farms so he stopped US support of Israel. And then Israel tried to kill him.

GD: Müller mentioned that.

RTC: But Harry got cold feet after that.

GD: And now they have a place at the white man’s table, don’t they?

RTC: Hell, now they own the table and the restaurant and ten blocks around it. Roosevelt hated them, you know and he and Long kept them out of the country. Roosevelt said they were a pest and we did not want them here. Funny, because long ago, the Roosevelt family was Jewish.

GD: I know. German Jews from the Rhineland. Name was Rosenfeld. Went to Holland after they were run out of Germany and changed the name to a Dutch spelling.

RTC: Yes. I know that. Old Franklin’s second cousin was an Orthodox rabbi as late as 1938. Of course no one ever mentions that just like no one ever talks about Eleanor’s rampant lesbianism. God, what s sewer the White House was then. A veritable racial and ethical trash bin.

GD: Now they’re all dead.

RTC: There should be a way to prevent that sort of thing but of course we were not in existence when Franklin was king. Wouldn’t happen now. I’m afraid that the Jews will dig into the Company the same way they dug into Roosevelt’s bureaucracy and the second time around, we will have a terrible time rooting them all out.

GD: I can see pogroms in Skokie and Miami even as we speak.

RTC: Dream on, my boy, dream on. At any rate, I shall await the demonization of the Arab world. We can send the military into Saudi Arabia on some flimsy pretest, like the demolition of some US Embassy in a very minor state, like Portugal, by positively identified Saudi Arabs and then a new Crusade! Oh, and the precious oil!

GD: And the oil. Remember the Maine, Robert.

RTC: Yes and remember what old Hearst said? ‘ You supply the pictures and I’ll supply the war?” Oh yes and we got Cuba and the Philippines, although why we wanted the latter escapes me. The problem with that country is that it’s full of Filipinos  and monkeys. Of course it’s often hard to differentiate between them but life is never easy. The Navy calls them the niggers of the Orient. I was at Pubic Bay once…

GD: (Laughter) what? You mean Subic Bay, don’t you?

RTC: A service joke. My God, Gregory, every square foot of land for miles around that base was filled with bars and tens of thousands of local prostitutes. ‘Oh you nice American! I love to fuck you! Take me back to America!’ And many of our corn-fed sailors went for the okeydoke and found out what Hell was like once they got Esmiralda back to Iowa. Ah well, thank God I never listened to their whining siren songs.

GD: I would imagine they had more claps than a football crowd….

RTC: (Laughter) My, isn’t it fun being bigots?

GD: I would prefer ‘realistic observers.’ Robert.

RTC: Call it what you will, Gregory, underneath the nice, polished veneer, we are all really cheap plywood.

GD: Hypocrisy is, after all, the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

RTC: Did you go to Harvard, Gregory? Such polished wit.

GD: I know. No, Not Harvard. The University of Unfortunate Experiences. I read a good deal, Robert, and I have moved in elegant circles and know just what to say and do at the appropriate time. Good manners are just the polish on the knife blade.

RTC: The University has embittered you, hasn’t it?

GD: Of course. Remember the Canadian counterfeit caper? A good case of embitterment. They stole from me so I returned the favor…in spades if you’ll pardon a rampant, bigoted remark. They stole four dollars and ten cents from me and I responded by stealing over two million dollars from them. In cash and their expenses. Loved every minute of it, too. I don’t think the Canadians expected me to come back and certainly not the way I did.

RTC: I read all about it. You made the press and we took note.

GD: I’m sure you did. Always strike at the weakest spot, unexpectedly and with force. Take them by surprise and then withdraw. They will rush their troops to the point of attack and then you circle around and hit them somewhere else.

RTC: How much did you get away with?

GD: Oh, Robert, such a pointed question. I got my four dollars and ten cents back and it cost them millions in a frantic attempt to stop what they called the efforts of the largest ring in their history. And if I made a profit out of it, why consider Delilah. Didn’t she make a prophet?

RTC: Oh, Gregory, a pun is the lowest form of humor. I should expect better from you.

GD: It would not be a good idea for me to go back to Canada, Robert. They will still be waiting for me. After all, I never used a lubricant. Sometimes, rarely but sometimes, I can sit back and enjoy a good laugh. I have two Canadian two dollar bills and a dime in a nice shadow box along with a newspaper clipping from the Vancouver Sun, next to my desk, It warms me on a cold night.

(Concluded at 12:02 PM CST)

1 USIA: United States Information Agency. The cover position for CIA operatives working from the inside of an American embassy or consulate.

 

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RAF veteran ‘admitted 1961 killing of UN secretary general’

Exclusive: Cold case documentary casts new light on mystery of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane crash

‘Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to…’

Januany 12, 2019

by Emma Graham-Harrison, Andreas Rocksen and Mads Brügger

The Guardian

New evidence has emerged linking an RAF veteran to the death in 1961 of the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld in a mysterious plane crash in southern Africa.

Jan van Risseghem has been named as a possible attacker before, but has always been described simply as a Belgian pilot. The Observer can now reveal that he had extensive ties to Britain, including a British mother and wife, trained with the RAF and was decorated by Britain for his service in the second world war.

Film-makers investigating the 1961 crash for a documentary, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, have found a friend of Van Risseghem who claimed the pilot confessed to shooting down the UN plane. They also gathered testimony from another pilot that undermines one of his alibis for that night.

Van Risseghem, whose father was Belgian, escaped occupied Europe at the start of the war to join the resistance in England. He trained with the RAF and flew missions over Nazi-held areas. During this period he met and married his British wife, cementing a lifelong connection.

At the end of the war the couple returned to Belgium, but by 1961 Van Risseghem was in the Congo, flying for separatist rebels who had declared independence for the breakaway province of Katanga. There, the documentary claims, he was ordered to shoot down a plane carrying Hammarskjöld, who was on a secret midnight journey to try to broker peace. The film will premiere at the Sundance festival in two weeks.

It was not clear at the time of the crash, which also killed all 15 people travelling with the secretary general, if it had been caused by sabotage or was a tragic accident. More than half a century later the UN is still investigating what happened on 18 September 1961. But as news of Hammarskjöld’s death emerged, the RAF veteran was apparently an obvious suspect. He was named as the possible attacker by the US ambassador to the Congo, in a secret cable sent the day of Hammarskjöld’s death and only recently declassified.

For decades, Van Risseghem appeared to have proof that he wasn’t flying in the region on the night Hammarskjöld’s plane, the Albertina, came down outside Ndola in Zambia, then called Northern Rhodesia.

Flight logs – meticulous records of where and when he flew – appear to show Van Risseghem was not flying for most of that month, returning to duty only on 20 September. However, Roger Bracco, another mercenary flying for the Katangese, told filmmakers that his colleague’s logbooks are dotted with apparent forgeries.

He does not believe that Van Risseghem shot down Hammarskjöld. But when asked in an interview for the film if he considered the logbook a fake, he responds: “I won’t say so, but … I didn’t recognise the story [it told].” Leafing through the book, he later directly accuses Van Risseghem of forgery. “This is fake,” Bracco says bluntly of one flight destination, and goes on to add that some of the names listed for co-pilots are not real.

A friend has also come forward to claim that, less than a decade after Hammarskjöld’s death, Van Risseghem told him he had attacked the plane. Pierre Coppens met Van Risseghem in 1965, when he was flying for a parachute training centre in Belgium. Over several conversations, he claimed, the pilot detailed how he overcame various technical challenges to down the plane, unaware of who was travelling inside.

“He didn’t know,” Coppens said. “He said ‘I made the mission’ and that’s all. And then I had to go back and save my life’.”

Van Risseghem died in 2007. Surviving relatives, including his widow and niece, say he was not involved in any attack. His widow told the Observer that he was in Rhodesia negotiating the purchase of a plane for Congolese rebels and the logbooks provide proof that he was not flying for Katanga at the time.

Van Risseghem was never interviewed by the authorities or journalists directly about the death of Hammarskjöld, but it is clear that he followed news about it closely. In an interview with an aviation historian Leif Hellström in the 1990s, he returns to discuss the crash and details of an official enquiry repeatedly. He emphasises that he was not in southern Africa at the time it happened, and describes the idea of an attack as “fairy stories”.

 

 

Hammersköld Assassination background

On July 29, 2005, exactly 100 years after Hammarskjöld’s birth, the Norwegian Major General Bjørn Egge gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding his death. According to Egge, who was the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash, and had tried to scramble away from the wreckage. Egge’s statement does not, however, align with Archbishop Tutu’s information

South Africa’s truth commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Wednesday released documents he said suggested a Western plot was behind the death of the head of the United Nations in 1961.

Tutu said his Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating crimes committed during the apartheid era, had decided to release the documents although it could not verify their authenticity. “The commission has discovered…documents discussing the sabotage of the aircraft in which the U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold died on the night of September 17 to 18, 1961,” Tutu told a news conference before leaving to spend a year in the United States. “We have been unable to investigate the veracity of these documents and of allegations that South Africa or other Western intelligence agencies were involved in bringing about the air crash,” he said.

The letters, headed the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR)– said to be a front company for the South African military– include references to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British MI5 security service. “In a meeting between MI5, special ops executive and the SAIMR, the following emerged,” reads one document marked Top Secret, “it is felt that Hammarskjold should be removed.” “I want his removal to be handled more efficiently than was Patrice,” the document said. The CIA last year opened its files on Cold War assassinations and admitted it ordered the murder of Patrice Lumumba, Congolese independence hero and pro-Soviet prime minister. Another letter headed “Operation Celeste” gives details of orders to plant explosives in the wheel bay of an aircraft primed to go off as the wheels were retracted on takeoff.

Hammarskjold and 15 other people were killed when their aircraft crashed entering what was then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, where the U.N. head was due to meet rebel leader Moise Tshombe to negotiate a truce in the Congolese civil war. The United Nations sent a peacekeeping force to newly liberated Congo in 1960 when the new government asked for help in the face of mutiny in its army, secession in Tshombe’s Katanga provinces and the invervention of Belgian troops. Newspapers at the time alleged British involvement in a plot to kill Hammarskjold to prevent U.N. support for Tshombe and his diamond-rich Katanga province. “We have it on good authority that UNO (the United Nations Organisation) will want to get its greedy paws on the province,” reads a letter dated July 12, 1960.

The letters came to light as truth commission researchers were ploughing through South African security documents in preparation for the truth commission’s final report. Tutu said the truth commission mandate to investigate such matters expired at the end of July and it therefore decided to publish the documents with names of individuals deleted and hand them to Justice Minister Dullah Omar. The archbishop, whose purple-robed figure has come to symbolise the painful process of reconciliation in South Africa, said he hoped releasing the documents would help set an example for more transparency in government.

In September 1961, Hammarskjöld found out about the fighting between non-combatant UN forces and Katanga troops of Moise Tshombe. He was en route to negotiate a cease-fire on the night of September 17-18 when his plane crashed near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He and fifteen others perished. There is still speculation as to the cause of the crash.

The explanation of investigators at the time is that Hammarskjöld’s aircraft descended too low on its approach to Ndola’s airport at night. The crew had filed no flight plan for security reasons. No evidence of a bomb, surface-to-air missile or hijacking has ever been presented. It has been speculated that the crew of the DC-6 incorrectly used altitude data for Ndolo (915 ft, 279 m), which is in the Congo and at lower altitude, rather than Ndola ( 4167ft, 1270 m) in Northern Rhodesia.

On August 19, 1998, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), revealed that recently-uncovered letters had implicated British MI5, American CIA and South African intelligence services in the 1961 crash of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane. One TRC letter said that a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay was set to detonate when the wheels came down for landing

A less conspiratorial theory holds that Hammarskjöld’s plane struck some treetops as it was preparing for landing. Hammarskjöld was the only person whose body was separate from the wreckage and therefore not burnt due to his aversion to seatbelts. He was thrown from the crash able to crawl away from the plane, but his injuries were severe enough that he was already dead by the time the plane was found.

The exploration and mining of radioactive ores in the United States began around the turn of the 20th century. Sources for radium (contained in uranium ore) were sought for use as luminous paint for watch dials and other instruments, as well as for health-related applications (some of which in retrospect were incredibly unhealthy). Because of the need for the element during World War II, the Manhattan Project contracted with numerous vanadium mining companies in the American Southwest, and also purchased uranium ore from the Belgian Congo, through the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, and in Canada from the Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited company, which had large stocks of uranium as waste from its radium refining activities. American uranium ores mined in Colorado were primarily mixes of vanadium and uranium, but because of wartime secrecy the Manhattan Project would only publicly admit to purchasing the vanadium, and did not pay the uranium miners for the uranium ore (in a much later lawsuit, many miners were able to reclaim lost profits from the U.S. government). American uranium ores did not have nearly as high uranium concentrations as the ore from the Belgian Congo, but they were pursued vigorously to ensure nuclear self-sufficiency. Similar efforts were undertaken in the Soviet Union, which did not have native stocks of uranium when it started developing its own weapons program.

The Union Minière du Haut Katanga (UMHK) is a Belgian mining company, once operating in Katanga, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly, Congo Free State, from 1908, Belgian Congo, from 1972, Zaire). It was created on October 28, 1906, as a result of a merger of a company created by Léopold II and Tanganyika Concessions Ltd (a British company created by Robert Williams, which started prospecting for minerals in 1899, and was granted mining concessions in 1900), in order to exploit the mineral wealth of Katanga. It was owned jointly by the Société Générale de Belgique, Belgium’s largest holding company (which controlled 70% of the Congolese economy) and Tanganyika Concessions Ltd.

 

Bitcoin is the greatest scam in history

It’s a colossal pump-and-dump scheme, the likes of which the world has never seen.

by Bill Harris

recode

I’m tired of saying, “Be careful, it’s speculative.” Then, “Be careful, it’s gambling.” Then, “Be careful, it’s a bubble.” Okay, I’ll say it: Bitcoin is a scam.

In my opinion, it’s a colossal pump-and-dump scheme, the likes of which the world has never seen. In a pump-and-dump game, promoters “pump” up the price of a security creating a speculative frenzy, then “dump” some of their holdings at artificially high prices. And some cryptocurrencies are pure frauds. Ernst & Young estimates that 10 percent of the money raised for initial coin offerings has been stolen.

The losers are ill-informed buyers caught up in the spiral of greed. The result is a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary families to internet promoters. And “massive” is a massive understatement — 1,500 different cryptocurrencies now register over $300 billion of “value.”

It helps to understand that a bitcoin has no value at all.

Promoters claim cryptocurrency is valuable as (1) a means of payment, (2) a store of value and/or (3) a thing in itself. None of these claims are true.

  1. Means of Payment. Bitcoins are accepted almost nowhere, and some cryptocurrencies nowhere at all. Even where accepted, a currency whose value can swing 10 percent or more in a single day is useless as a means of payment.
  2. Store of Value. Extreme price volatility also makes bitcoin undesirable as a store of value. And the storehouses — the cryptocurrency trading exchanges — are far less reliable and trustworthy than ordinary banks and brokers.
  3. Thing in Itself. A bitcoin has no intrinsic value. It only has value if people think other people will buy it for a higher price — the Greater Fool theory.

Some cryptocurrencies, like Sweatcoin, which is redeemable for workout gear, are the equivalent of online coupons or frequent flier points — a purpose better served by simple promo codes than complex encryption.

Indeed, for the vast majority of uses, bitcoin has no role. Dollars, pounds, euros, yen and renminbi are better means of payment, stores of value and things in themselves.

Cryptocurrency is best-suited for one use: Criminal activity. Because transactions can be anonymous — law enforcement cannot easily trace who buys and sells — its use is dominated by illegal endeavors.

Most heavy users of bitcoin are criminals, such as Silk Road and WannaCry ransomware. Too many bitcoin exchanges have experienced spectacular heists, such as NiceHash and Coincheck, or outright fraud, such as Mt. Gox and Bitfunder. Way too many Initial Coin Offerings are scams — 418 of the 902 ICOs in 2017 have already failed.

Hackers are getting into the act. It’s estimated that 90 percent of all remote hacking is now focused on bitcoin theft by commandeering other people’s computers to mine coins.

Even ordinary buyers are flouting the law. Tax law requires that every sale of cryptocurrency be recorded as a capital gain or loss and, of course, most bitcoin sellers fail to do so. The IRS recently ordered one major exchange to produce records of every significant transaction.

And yet, a prominent Silicon Valley promoter of bitcoin proclaims that “Bitcoin is going to transform society … Bitcoin’s been very resilient. It stayed alive during a very difficult time when there was the Silk Road mess, when Mt. Gox stole all that Bitcoin …” He argues the criminal activity shows that bitcoin is strong. I’d say it shows that bitcoin is used for criminal activity.

Bitcoin transactions are sometimes promoted as instant and nearly free, but they’re often relatively slow and expensive. It takes about an hour for a bitcoin transaction to be confirmed, and the bitcoin system is limited to five transactions per second. MasterCard can process 38,000 per second. Transferring $100 from one person to another costs about $6 using a cryptocurrency exchange, and well less than $1 using an electronic check.

Bitcoin is absurdly wasteful of natural resources. Because it is so compute-intensive, it takes as much electricity to create a single bitcoin — a process called “mining” — as it does to power an average American household for two years. If bitcoin were used for a large portion of the world’s commerce (which won’t happen), it would consume a very large portion of the world’s electricity, diverting scarce power from useful purposes.

In what rational universe could someone simply issue electronic scrip — or just announce that they intend to — and create, out of the blue, billions of dollars of value? It makes no sense.

All of this would be a comic sideshow if innocent people weren’t at risk. But ordinary people are investing some of their life savings in cryptocurrency. One stock brokerage is encouraging its customers to purchase bitcoin for their retirement accounts!

It’s the job of the SEC and other regulators to protect ordinary investors from misleading and fraudulent schemes. It’s time we gave them the legislative authority to do their job.

 

 

 

 

 

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