TBR News January 28, 2018

Jan 28 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 28, 2018: “We see in the media that former President  George W. Bush’s approval rating is soaring upwards.The fickle public seems have to forgotten the gay sex scandal concerning fake reporter and male prostitute Jeff Gannon “slept over” on numerous occasions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Gannon had previously advertised his services on the internet as a male prostitute “top” at $1200 per weekend.

White House overnight trysts were not uncommon, according to Secret Service logs of Jeff Gannon’s White House entries and exits, requested by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) using the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).

Since “Jeff Gannon” has given the term “media whore” a whole new definition, the question arises — could “Jeff Gannon” be President George Bush’s Lewinsky albeit in gay apparel?

White House logs furnished by the Secret Service show that fake reporter Jeff Gannon (a.k.a James Guckert) stayed overnight at the White House on many occasions – even when press conferences or briefings were not scheduled. He was in the White House from 5:00 PM until 7:30 AM on fourteen recorded occasions.

These records reveal that the White House was like a Gay Roach Motel — they check in but they don’t check out.

FOIA documents reveal that Gannon signed in on many occasions, but never signed out, reports John Byrne in an exclusive report on Raw Story http://rawstory.com/exclusives/byrne/secret_service_gannon_424.htm

Gannon’s inexplicable access to the Bush White House as well as his shilling for GOP fake news outlet ‘Talon News’ (not to be confused with fake news by Jon Stewart of course) raises more questions about planted and paid-for Bushonian shills in the so-called mainstream media.

Gannon aka James Guckert appeared more than 200 times at the White House as a fake reporter in 2 years and attended 155 of 196 White House press briefings, reports Raw Story. Since Gannon was previously employed as a male prostitute, questions naturally arise regarding the nature of his overnight stays at the White House.

“On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing,” Raw Story continues. “Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.”

Who was Jeff Gannon servicing in the newly redecorated Gay Green Room?

The White House “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was obviously not working.”

Table of Contents


  • ATM makers warn of ‘jackpotting’ hacks on U.S. machines
  • The Amazing Rise and Fall of a Rodent Utopia
  • New York prosecutor to investigate firm selling online followers
  • Hundreds of thousands living in squalid rented homes in England
  • EU drafting law to restrain Chinese takeovers
  • Is there Really a Russian Threat to Britain? 
  • Fitness tracking app gives away location of secret US army bases
  • US joins Poland in fight over pipeline
  • Bitcoin, Along With Other Cryptocurrencies, Collapse Over Crackdown Concerns
  • Mexico to send troops to stem violence after record 25,000 murders
  • A classic example of disinformation




ATM makers warn of ‘jackpotting’ hacks on U.S. machines

January 27, 2018

by Jim Finkle


Diebold Nixdorf Inc and NCR Corp, two of the world’s largest ATM makers, have warned that cyber criminals are targeting U.S. cash machines with tools that force them to spit out cash in hacking schemes known as “jackpotting.”

The two ATM makers did not identify any victims or say how much money had been lost. Jackpotting has been rising worldwide in recent years, though it is unclear how much cash has been stolen because victims and police often do not disclose details.

The attacks were reported earlier on Saturday by the security news website Krebs on Security, which said they had begun last year in Mexico.

The companies confirmed to Reuters on Saturday they had sent out the alerts to clients.

NCR said in a Friday alert that the cases were the first confirmed “jackpotting” losses in the United States. It said its equipment had not been targeted in the recent attacks, but that it was still a concern for the entire ATM industry.

“This should be treated by all ATM deployers as a call to action to take appropriate steps to protect their ATMs against these forms of attack,” the alert said.

Diebold Nixdorf said in a separate Friday alert that U.S. authorities had warned the company that hackers were targeting one of its ATM models, known as Opteva, which went out of production several years ago.

A confidential U.S. Secret Service alert sent to banks said the hackers targeted stand-alone ATMs typically located in pharmacies, big box retailers and drive-thru ATMs, Krebs on Security reported.

Diebold Nixdorf’s alert described steps that criminals had used to compromise ATMs. They include gaining physical access, replacing the hard drive and using an industrial endoscope to depress an internal button required to reset the device.

Reuters was unable to obtain a copy of the Secret Service report and an agency representative declined comment. Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not immediately be reached.

Russian cyber security firm Group IB has reported that cyber criminals remotely attacked cash machines in more than a dozen countries across Europe in 2016. Similar attacks were also reported that year in Thailand and Taiwan.

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Susan Thomas



The Amazing Rise and Fall of a Rodent Utopia

March 4, 2015

by Brent Swancer


Human beings seem to have a tendency to take our society for granted. We expect that rules will be followed and that the comfortable world around us will continue to run smoothly as it always has. Even as the populations of major cities around the world soar, we trust that society will stand strong under the weight of so many souls and guide us towards a prosperous future. Those who lead comfortable lives become complacent, confident in their place in the world, their purpose, and their legacy. What many do not understand is just how thin a thread the balance of society often teeters upon and just how close the tipping point may loom.

In 1972, one animal behaviorist by the name of John Calhoun got a frightening glimpse of what potential mayhem lurks behind the shiny veneer of our civilized society when he created a utopian paradise for rats that spectacularly disintegrated before his eyes, and shone a light on the dark forces that influence us at the basest levels.

John Calhoun was an ethologist and animal behaviorist who had had a long standing interest in how rodents interact and create societies. Starting in 1947, Calhoun began experimenting with rats and mice on a rural property in Rockville, Maryland in order to investigate the behavioral effects on the animals when provided with unlimited food and resources; essentially a rodent paradise.

One of his main interests was the potential effects of overcrowding on human society and behavior, which was seen as a very real potential problem in the post-war 1940s, where worldwide populations were growing rapidly. In his early experiments, Calhoun observed a colony of Norway rats for 28 months, during which time he provided the animals with as much food as they needed as well as total safety from predators. It was expected that the population would skyrocket uncontrollably to around 5,000 animals during this period of time, however, the population oddly never went past 200. He also noticed that the colony split into smaller, separate groups of no more than 12 individuals per group.

Intrigued by these results, Calhoun continued his work with rats and mice, and finally in 1958 he created his own lab in the second floor of a barn from which to launch his most ambitious series of experiments yet, which consisted of creating a series of what he called “Universes” which were habitats designed to be rodent utopias, free of disease, predators, and providing unlimited resources. In each instance, the rodent populations experienced a rapid rise in population followed by a levelling off that seemed to go hand in hand with a variety of unusual, deviant behaviors, before finally the birthrate screeched to a halt, after which the rodent society would implode and cease to exist.

Calhoun would write a prominent paper on the experiments in 1962 called Population density and social pathology, which was published in Scientific American and outlined his observations of the effects of overcrowding on rodent behavior. In the paper, he coined the term “behavioral sink,” which referred to societal collapse in the face of behavioral degradation and signifying a point of no return leading to extinction marked by a reversion to deviant acts caused by overcrowding. The paper would put the sobering potential effects of overpopulation into the public consciousness and people were already comparing the findings made in these early experiments to human society. This paper became incredibly influential in the field of psychology and is still heavily referenced to this day.

These experiments culminated in Calhoun’s most famous and ambitious experiment of them all, “Universe 25.” Calhoun created a complex, controlled environment that was a large room that measured 2.7 meters square and was split into 4 separate interconnected pens. Surrounding this Universe were 16 tunnels leading to food, water, and various burrows, and there was a total of 256 “apartments,” each able to accommodate up to 15 mice, all connected for easy access by a series of ramps. Four breeding pairs of mice were introduced to this spacious enclosure and were given unlimited, easy access to food and water.

This sort of habitat was referred to as a “mortality-inhibiting environment,” basically with the aim of limiting transmittable diseases, providing limitless food, water, nesting material, and other valuable resources, and basically doing everything possible to make sure the rats didn’t die or face any real discomfort; in essence emulating the conditions of many humans in similar environments. The temperature was kept at a constant, balmy 20 degrees Celsius or more, and the mice had free reign to roam wherever they liked within the habitat. Throughout the whole experiment the enclosure would be kept clean and disease free, with the health of the mice constantly monitored by veterinarians. The only limitation faced by the mice would be that of physical space. Then Calhoun sat back and waited to see what would happen.

The rodents first spent around 104 days getting accustomed to their environment, a phase that Calhoun referred to as the “strive period,” or an initial period of adjustment when the mice were basically just establishing territories and creating nests. Then the mouse population at first began to increase at a rapid rate just as predicted, a phase that was called the “exploit period.” During this phase, the mouse population of Universe 25 roughly doubled every 55 days until by day 315 their numbers had reached 620. At this point, the large enclosure was becoming a bit crowded in some places and the birthrate plunged to a much lower rate, about one third of what it had been before. It was also noticed that food was being consumed more in certain areas, despite the fact that all of the compartments were identical. The mice began to associate eating and drinking with being with others, rarely if ever eating alone, and the population started to gravitate towards certain compartments where all of the eating took place. This made some apartments and compartments crowded well beyond their intended capacity while others remained sparsely populated or even empty. The enclosure wasn’t truly overcrowded, as it had been designed for up to 3,000 mice, but rather, it had developed a very unbalanced distribution of individuals.

This persistent gathering and eating in overcrowded gathering points seemed to result in three times more socially immature mice than socially established ones, suggesting that they were somehow losing their ability to form social bonds. That was around the time when the perfect society of unlimited resources that Calhoun had so meticulously created began to crumble.

From around Day 315 of the experiment, a wide variety of odd behavior started to surface among the animals. Some male mice who had no social role in the face of the burgeoning population suddenly seemed to lose their sense of purpose and became detached from these natural roles. They stopped trying to defend their own territory or pregnant females, lost interest in those around them, and whereas they would normally emigrate to other broods they found none willing to accept them and so became listless wanderers tending to congregate in the center of the Universe where they spent their days mindlessly eating or fighting amongst themselves. These males were seen as the “outcasts” of the society. The more dominant males among these became markedly more vicious and violent, attacking others without provocation and fighting for no apparent reason. Many of these roving males would roam about attacking or mounting, essentially raping, other mice indiscriminately, regardless of gender or relation. The non-dominant males conversely became extremely meek and passive, with some of them becoming the targets of repeated attacks by other males while refusing to fight back. In some cases, cannibalism occurred among the mice, and there was generally a descent into feral, violent behavior punctuated by intense bursts of shocking brutality.

The female mice were not having much more luck. In the absence of any males willing to protect their nests, mothers began to become highly aggressive towards trespassers, essentially taking on the role typically reserved for the males. Unfortunately, this went into overdrive. Young mice were banished before they were weaned and often mothers ignored their young or seemingly forgot about them. Some females became unusually aggressive towards even their own offspring and would even sometimes attack and kill their own young, while others became morose hermits who refused to mate. All of this led to a quickly sinking birthrate and an infant mortality rate of over 90% in some areas of the enclosure. This era of bursts of explosive violence and hypersexual behavior came to be known as the “stagnation phase,” or “equilibrium period.” Calhoun speculated that a lack of social roles to fill combined with constant, unwanted social and physical contact in the face of the increased population density was at the root of the aggression, withdrawal, and sexual deviancy.

The final phase of the experiment was ominously referred to as “the death phase” or “die period.” By Day 560, the population increase had plunged to next to nothing, partly due to the alarming mortality rate that had reached nearly 100% and partly due to a disinterested attitude towards procreation that began to be exhibited in many of the male mice.  Amid all of this turmoil and degradation within Universe 25, there was also a new generation of mice emerging that had not ever been subjected to a normal social upbringing and showed absolutely no interest in fighting, courtship, mating, raising young, or much of anything really. Calhoun referred to this aberrant group of mice as “the beautiful ones.” These “beautiful ones” were completely detached from society, had completely lost touch with normal mouse behavior, and spent all of their time eating, sleeping, or incessantly grooming and preening themselves, leading them to having a fine, robust, healthy appearance with keen and alert eyes, hence their name.

Calhoun often referred to these mice as “handsome,” however, their beauty was truly only skin deep. Inside they were empty. The beautiful ones lived peacefully secluded and withdrawn from the rest of the society in the less crowded areas; eating, sleeping, avoiding conflict, grooming, and not mating in any way, and seemed to be spared any violence that broke out among the other mice, yet they did nothing to further the society either. They had essentially lost all of their desire to interact with others and spent their days in a lackadaisical daze.

Calhoun liked to refer to this drastic detachment and lack of will to participate in society as the “first death,” or basically the death of the animal’s spirit, which would occur before the “second death,” or physical death of the body. Once this “first death” was reached, the mice were no longer really mice anymore but rather empty husks merely killing time awaiting the inevitable death of their body and an end to their pointless existence. They had in a sense lost all will to live in any useful manner.

Calhoun would later muse on the reasons behind the rise of these “beautiful ones,” these mice which were healthy in appearance yet had died in spirit. He theorized that mice were in many respects like mankind, and that in the absence of any tension, pressure, or stress they had lost their focus and sense of purpose and identity. With an overabundance of vital resources and no need to do anything to obtain them, the need for societal roles or jobs had faded, leaving the mice in a state of being unable and/or unwilling to perform all but the most basic functions of sustaining physiological life such as eating and sleeping. In essence, the thinking was that these mice, and indeed it could be inferred human beings as well, required conditions of stress, pressure, obstacles, and a clear purpose in order to have a destiny and a desire to engage in society.

With the majority of mice becoming those who refused to mate, engage others, or indeed perform any useful societal functions at all, the population increase of Universe 25 ceased altogether, with the last conception recorded at Day 920. By this time the population had reached its peak of 2,200 individuals, which was somewhat crowded but still well under the enclosure’s maximum capacity of 3,000. With zero population increase, a shocking mortality rate, and a majority population now completely disinterested in procreation and living on the upper levels of the enclosure in seclusion, the rest of the remaining mice were still forming marauding gangs, congregating into crowded areas and devolving into a morass of endemic violence and cannibalism, with many of them completely missing tails or exhibiting brutal battle scars.

Bear in mind that even at this turbulent point in time, the mice still had free access to all of the food and resources they could ever need. This was the unstoppable slide to catastrophe, the point of no return, the “behavioral sink” that Calhoun had talked about, and the mouse utopia’s apocalypse came crashing down as all of these factors conspired to cause the population to start barrelling rapidly towards extinction until there were none left. Universe 25 hd ceased to exist.

Calhoun was alarmed by the spectacular descent into ruin of the colony, and before the apocalyptic end of the “death phase,” he removed a few of the “beautiful ones” for the purpose of seeing if they could reintegrate into a mouse society under different conditions. A few small groups of these “beautiful ones” were removed from Universe 25 and placed in equally ideal conditions, yet with a small population and unlimited space. They were essentially placed in more or less the same conditions that had been faced by the original breeding pairs of Universe 25, and it was expected they would snap out of their daze and begin populating the new habitat, in essence rebuilding society.

Calhoun and associates were somewhat taken aback when the displayed absolutely no change in their previous behavior. They continued to show a complete disinterest in social interactions or reproduction, and refused to mate, which led to no new births in the new habitat whatsoever. In the end, this small group of mice died of old age, having never shown the slightest interest in repopulating or rebuilding their society, despite living in ideal conditions. Calhoun would conclude his study on an ominous note, saying:

For an animal so simple as a mouse, the most complex behaviors involve the interrelated set of courtship, maternal care, territorial defense and hierarchical intragroup and intergroup social organization. When behaviors related to these functions fail to mature, there is no development of social organization and no reproduction. As in the case of my study reported above, all members or the population will age and eventually die. The species will die out. For an animal so complex as man, there is no logical reason why a comparable sequence of events should not also lead to species extinction.

If opportunities for role fulfilment fall far short of the demand by those capable of filling roles, and having expectations to do so, only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation. Their most complex behaviors will become fragmented. Acquisition, creation and utilization of ideas appropriate for life in a post-industrial cultural-conceptual-technological society will have been blocked. Just as biological generativity in the mouse involves this species’ most complex behaviors, so does ideational generativity for man. Loss of these respective complex behaviors means death of the species.

Calhoun’s findings and observations on Universe 25 were published in the rather spookily titled paper Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population, which immediately shot into the public consciousness and became at once controversial and a sobering look into what could happen to humans as well. It was also widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. The public mostly took the findings in a negative way, and with the country as it was at the time why wouldn’t they? After all, the Universe 25 study was done at a time when the population was soaring, urbanization was burgeoning, and at around the same time as incidences of urban violence such as the Watts Riots in 1965 and widespread civil unrest across the country in in the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination in 1968.

Everywhere one turned it seemed that there was some riot, mass panic, outbreak of violence, or other signs of an imminent breakdown of social order stemming from the crowd, and Calhoun’s study of Universe 25 seemed to eerily mirror the world that seemed to be unravelling around them.

The study seemed to confirm the public’s darkest fears; that society had reached a tipping point towards disaster and that overcrowding directly equated to doom and degeneracy, nihilism and inevitable collapse. In certainly didn’t help matters that various books and movies were being released at the time that approached this topic in a negative way, such as Soylent Green in 1973, which depicts an overpopulated society unknowingly being fed the remains of the dead, as well as the book A Clockwork Orange in the 60s with its roving gangs of directionless, ultraviolent hooligans, among many others. In light of all of this, Calhoun’s paper became a dire warning, an omen even, of things to come and fueled a particular bleak, pessimistic public attitude.

Yet for all of this apocalyptic talk of looming societal collapse and Calhoun’s own somber, portentous wording, he in fact did not really intend to prove that overcrowding and lack of social roles would irreversibly lead to the inevitable downfall of mankind. Certainly Calhoun saw his mice as a social, psychological and physiological model for humankind, and his liberal use of anthropomorphic terminology such as “apartments,” “tower blocks,” “dropouts,” “juvenile delinquents,” and “beautiful ones” reflected that, but his real intentions were actually more positive than they seemed to most who had read his work. Although he saw the fate of his mice as a metaphor for the potential fate of humankind, Calhoun was more interested in how human beings had the power to reverse this trend; to heal, and to overcome the type of spiraling collapse that had befallen Universe 25. He even famously said himself:

I shall largely speak of mice, but my thoughts are on man, on healing, on life and its evolution. Threatening life and evolution are the two deaths, death of the spirit and death of the body.

Calhoun was dismayed that his work had been embraced by the portion of society that saw nothing but hopelessness in store for mankind, yet he tried to clarify his intent and put a positive spin on it. He was quick to point out that Universe 25, with its unlimited infinite resources in a limited space, was a decidedly unnatural environment and that it did not necessarily reflect the reality that we were faced with. He further theorized that mankind had averted a similar catastrophe because, unlike the mice, we have a different psychological sense of space and exhibit an understanding of what he called “conceptual space,” which meant that we are able to utilize ideas for the purpose of mining resources and guiding social interactions.

In short, he believed that mankind’s self-awareness and knack for creativity and design could solve our problems and help us avoid the fate of the mice of Universe 25. Calhoun had even observed this among the mice to some extent, noting that the ones that had become resourceful and creative, as well as those more able to handle social interactions, had been the ones most likely to survive the world crumbling around them. In spite of the negative connotations related to his work, Calhoun remained hopeful that mankind could utilize our innovation, creativity, imagination, and positivity to overcome our limitations. However, not everything was a cheerful, sunny vision of the future.

For all of his optimism for the future and faith in mankind’s ability to change it, Calhoun still warned that in spite of our sophistication and intelligence as a species, we still faced grave danger if we did nothing to change the way our cities operated. He still insisted that human society would face explosive collapse once the number of people capable of filling societal roles dramatically exceeded the number of roles available. The behavioral sink still loomed threateningly over us, and Calhoun maintained that once humanity had reached this event horizon, pathological behavior and deviancy would spiral out of control and we would have reached a tipping point from which there would be no return, just as had happened with the mice of Universe 25. If we reached that point, he theorized, we were doomed.

In order to avoid that doom, Calhoun continued his work well after the fall of Universe 25 with the intent of finding ways to minimize the negative effects of overcrowding and simultaneously maximize creativity. One of his more unusual ideas was to promote space colonization to advance our society, even going so far as to organize a multidisciplinary group called the Space Cadets to research and advocate this, but he also focused closer to home. There was the strong belief that the way we lived could be profoundly impacted by the way cities were designed.  He wanted to find ways to creatively change our behaviors and how our cities were designed in order to promote innovation and positive interaction between us, and to prevent stagnation so that we would not reach that dreaded behavioral sink that would spell our certain extinction. To this end, Calhoun would go on to create over 100 additional rodent Universes and his work would become influential in city planning philosophies all over the world.

So where does this leave us as a species? In modern times more than half of the Earth’s population is packed into ever growing, ever more crowded cities. Is our rapidly urbanized society really as unshakeable and stable as we like to think it is? Are we experiencing the same effects that befell Universe 25 and if so, which phase are we at? If we do not change how we think about each other, our surroundings, and the way we live are we going to emerge unscathed or are we already firmly into the rut that will send us careening past the point of no return to a dismal end? Is it already too late? No matter how much stock one puts into Calhoun’s findings and how they relate to human society, the rise of the utopia of Universe 25 and its spectacular descent into hell certainly seems worth pondering.

As the world population hurtles towards an estimated 9.6 billion people by 2050, it seems that there are perhaps some profound messages on the nature of our society and psyche to be found here that may help us come to an understanding of how safe we really are and what we can do to improve our world.


New York prosecutor to investigate firm selling online followers

January 27, 2018

by Jonathan Allen


NEW YORK – New York’s chief prosecutor will investigate a company that, according to a New York Times article published on Saturday, sold millions of fake followers on social media accounts to celebrities and others wanting to goose their online presence.

Eric Schneiderman, the state’s attorney general, said the company, Devumi, would be undermining the internet’s use as a tool for transparency and democracy if, as the Times reported, it was selling so-called bots using identities stolen from real social media users.

“Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law,” Schneiderman wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “The growing prevalence of bots means that real voices are too often drowned out in our public conversation. Those who can pay the most for followers can buy their way to apparent influence.”

Devumi advertises itself on its website as selling online followers for various social media platforms, including Pinterest and YouTube. It promises Twitter users they can buy up to 500,000 additional followers from the company, which describes itself as “committed to the goal of increasing your social media presence and credibility with guaranteed results.”

The company, which did not respond to questions on Saturday, told the Times it did not sell fake users or steal real people’s identities.

The Times reported that it bought followers from Devumi and said many of them were evidently fake. It interviewed some of the real social media users whose profile pictures and biographical details had apparently been stolen.

The Times said famous actors, television presenters and entrepreneurs were among those who bought Devumi followers.

Twitter is working to stop Devumi and similar companies, it said in a statement on Saturday. “The tactics used by Devumi on our platform and others as described by today’s NYT article violate our policies and are unacceptable to us,” the statement said.


Hundreds of thousands living in squalid rented homes in England

Estimated 338,000 properties rented by under-35s hazardous and likely to cause harm

January 28, 2018

by Robert Booth

The Guardian

Rented housing so squalid it is likely to leave tenants requiring medical attention is being endured by hundreds of thousands of young adults in England, an analysis of government figures has revealed.

Rats, mouldy walls, exposed electrical wiring, leaking roofs and broken locks are among problems blighting an estimated 338,000 homes rented by people under 35 that have been deemed so hazardous they are likely to cause harm.

It is likely to mean that over half a million people are starting their adult lives in such conditions, amid a worsening housing shortage and rising rents, which are up 15% across the UK in the last seven years.

Visits by the Guardian to properties where tenants are paying private landlords up to £1,100 a month have revealed holes in external walls, insect-infested beds, water pouring through ceilings and mould-covered kitchens.

A 30-year-old mother near Bristol said her home is so damp that her child’s cot rotted. A 34-year-old woman in Luton told of living with no heating and infestations of rats and cockroaches, while a 24-year-old mother from Kent said she lived in a damp flat with no heating and defective wiring for a year before it was condemned.

“Young adults have very little option but to rent from a private landlord, so we should at least expect a decent home in return for what we pay,” said Dan Wilson Craw, director of the Generation Rent campaign group. “Relying on cash-strapped councils to enforce our rights means that too many of us are stuck with unsafe housing.”

The extent of the impact on young people emerged as a cross-party bid to give tenants new powers to hit back against rogue landlords gathers strength.

The government has backed a private member’s bill going through parliament that would allow tenants to take direct legal action instead of relying on local authorities to do so.

Research by Shelter published last week found that 48% of families in social housing who reported issues about poor or unsafe conditions felt ignored or were refused help.

The issue has gained greater political impetus in the wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower where tenants had complained publicly about safety conditions but nothing was done before the blaze claimed 71 lives last June.

Seven months before the blaze, Ed Daffern, a member of Grenfell Action Group, warned of “dangerous living conditions” and wrote in a blogpost that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord”.

Government figures suggest as many as 2.4 million people in England live in rented homes, both in the private and social sectors, with category 1 hazards. That includes 756,000 households living in private rented properties – almost one in five of the whole private rented stock – and 244,000 households in social housing.

The worst affected regions are the east and west Midlands, which features large numbers of Victorian homes, where about a quarter of a million rental properties suffer from category 1 hazards, according to the figures compiled by Labour based on the English Housing Survey. These hazards include exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets, dangerous or broken boilers, very cold bedrooms, leaking roofs, mould, vermin and broken stairs.

“One million homes in this country are currently unfit, putting the health and in some cases safety of tenants at risk,” said Karen Buck, the Labour MP for North Westminster who drafted the fitness for human habitation bill that is going through parliament. “Yet at the moment landlords have no obligation to their tenants to put or keep the property in a condition fit for habitation.”

About half of councils in England have served no or just one enforcement notice under the Housing Act in the last year, Buck said.

The London Borough of Newham estimates 10,000 private rented homes within its boundaries in the category – equivalent to one in four. Its inspectors have photographed rats in larders, baths and beds in kitchens, bedrooms in cupboards and homes with plastic sheets in place of roofs.

“In practice you have fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer,” said John Healey MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing. “Too many people are forced to put up with downright dangerous housing. After the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, it’s even more important that ministers back Labour’s plan to make all homes fit for human habitation.”

Sajid Javid, the housing secretary, said he was determined “to do everything possible to protect tenants” and pledged government support for new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.

Since April landlords have faced fines of up to £30,000 and as an alternative to prosecution the government is planning banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders with a database of convicted rogue landlords and letting agents.

“The Grenfell tragedy exposed the catastrophic consequences of unsafe housing in the most devastating way, and how our laws fail to protect people’s right to a safe and decent home,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate. “Too many private and social renters are forced to live in poor and sometimes dangerous conditions, unable to tackle safety concerns or legally challenge their landlord.”




EU drafting law to restrain Chinese takeovers

January 28, 2018


A draft EU law to restrain Chinese acquisitions of European firms and technologies is progressing, according to a deputy German minister. Matthias Machnig has said the initiative has found support in European capitals.

Matthias Machnig, deputy secretary in Germany’s Economics Ministry, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that EU nations urgently needed a “legislative tool” to examine strategic takeovers and stake-holding by foreign states and, if necessary, powers to intervene.

Germany, together with France and Italy, had launched the legislative initiative, which also had European Commission approval and is now subject to consultations within the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, Machnig said.

“It is urgently necessary that within this year we are handed a sharper legislative instrument to resist takeover fantasies or outflows of technology and know-how,” he told the weekly paper.

“The EU with its innovative businesses is attractive for many around the world,” he added. “Firm takeovers are rising, unfortunately often under market-distorting financial conditions.”


Machnig was the German delegation chief at December’s ministerial conference in Brazil of the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose director-general, Roberto Azevedo, last year warned world leaders to “resist the temptation of protectionism.”

Known Chinese investments in Germany had jumped from €100 million ($124 million) seven years ago to €12.1 billion last year, the Cologne-based Institute for Economic Research (IW) told Welt am Sonntag.

“In most cases less than 50 percent of the sum of transactions of Chinese firms in Germany actually became public,” said the IW’s Christian Rusche.



Is there Really a Russian Threat to Britain? 

January 22 2018

by Peter Hitchens

I can’t blame the Army for trying to save itself from the current mad round of cuts, but could there be anything more ludicrous than a warning that we need to beef up the Army because it can’t cope with an attack on Britain by Russia? Likewise we could not cope with an attack on Britain by Klingons (who don’t as far as I know exist), or, come to that, by the Chinese People’s Republic (which does exist).  But these attacks are not likely, let alone imminent.

I say, please plan for what is realistically likely, rather than frightening people with bogeymen, and so perhaps creating the preconditions for a war which, if you had not been so silly, would never have happened.

General Sir Nick Carter, head of the army, was all over the media this morning warning of the Muscovite threat.

What is he talking about? Years ago, the great conservative satirist Michael Wharton (who wrote under the name ‘Peter Simple’ in the old Daily Telegraph, a very different newspaper from the one that now bears that name) invented a war between Sweden and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was then a country in the South-East of Europe, not having been dismantled to suit the convenience of the EU. It was also about as far as one could get from Sweden, while staying in the European landmass.

I forget what grievance had sparked this fictional conflict. One day I shall write a Wikipedia entry on the Suedo-Yugoslav war (I wonder how long it will take them to notice) which will doubtless explain all these things.

But the real lasting joke was of course that the two enemies could never find each other. They had nothing to fight about, no common border, no territorial dispute. It could have lasted for decades without an actual shot being fired.

Much the same is true of our relations with Russia. We have no land or maritime border. We have very little mutual trade or any other connection which might lead to war. We are far away from each other.

Silly media reports contrive to suggest that Britain is ceaselessly ‘confronting’ or ‘escorting’ Russian ships or planes which fly through international waters or airspace near our islands. But read them carefully. They often seem to suggest that Russian planes have violated our airspace. As far as I know, this has not happened. Likewise, Russian naval vessels have a perfect right under the International Law of the Sea, to pass through the North Sea and the Channel (I have checked the laws on this) provided they undertake no hostile action. Indeed, it would be hard to see how else they could get from their home ports to Atlantic or Mediterranean destinations unless they took these routes.

As I have pointed out in myriad posts on this indexed, archived and searchable blog, Russia is not a very significant country, even though it takes up a lot of space on the map. Its GDP, the best measure of economic importance, is roughly the same as that of Italy, a country which rightly does not trouble us.

Its nuclear weapons are unusable (like ours). Most of Russia’s conventional army and air force is deployed to defend its home territory, because (unlike us)  it has no natural physical borders in the shape of seas or mountain-ranges, and is vulnerable to invasion (see recent history). Its second most important city suffered countless deaths by starvation thanks to a siege by German invaders within living memory.

Many widely-believed myths about Russia are not true. Russia did not start the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia. The EU’s own Tagliavini report concluded that this was begun by Georgia.

Russia has long regarded NATO eastward expansion as hostile and expansionist, and sought to counter it through diplomatic warnings at the highest level. These were ignored. NATO expansion was not the consequence of some desire by the peoples of the region. The Baltic States, for instance, gained their independence from Moscow in 1991 and maintained it for many years without any threat or danger, without needing to join NATO. Expansion was in fact the result of expensive lobbying of the US Senate by American arms and manufacturers in the 1990s, exposed by the New York Times at the time. It was specifically warned against by George Kennan, architect of the containment of the USSR, who came out of retirement aged 93 to say it was dangerous folly.

Russia’s response only became military when NATO countries openly backed the violent overthrow of a non-aligned government in Ukraine in a lawless putsch, and its replacement (contrary to the Ukraine constitution and with armed men present in the Kiev Parliament building) by a pro-NATO regime. Russia’s response has in fact been highly limited and cautious. Russia has as legitimate a claim to Crimea (largely populated by Russians who were prevented from voting on their future by the Ukrainian government in 1992) as Britain has to the Falklands, and at least as good a claim as NATO Turkey has to North Cyprus. Russia’s troops were stationed in Crimea quite legally in accordance with international treaties. Russia is undoubtedly using covert and undeclared forces in Ukraine, but it should be pointed out that Western countries have done the same or similar things, notably in the Middle East and SE Asia. It is at the very least likely that NATO countries have also taken (and continue to take) covert action in Ukraine, and in my view laughable to suggest that they have not.  But the important thing is that the conflict was initiated by Western, not Russian action. Russia’s principal policy since 1989 (dictated by economic weakness which still persists) has been to retreat without violence from the countries it previously occupied. It did so on the basis of what it took to be promises that NATO (an alliance against whom, by the way?) would not expand into the areas from which Russia had withdrawn.

I have no purpose in writing the above except that it is the truth and that (having witnessed some of it) I hate war and wish to ensure that we do not wander into one through stupidity and ignorance. I also have some experience and knowledge of the region, having lived in Moscow form 1990 to 1992 and travelled in the former USSR reasonably extensively.  I regard Vladimir Putin as a sinister tyrant, repeatedly say so in unequivocal terms and have no relationship, direct or indirect, with the Russian state or any of its organs.  If we are truly so worried about Russian internal politics, it is odd that we were entirely complacent, and even supportive while Boris Yeltsin was using tanks to bombard his own Parliament back in 1993. The fact was that Yeltsin let the west push him around, whereas Putin does not. That, and not Mr Putin’s internal regime, is the reason for the change in posture towards Russia. Beware of this stuff. History shows that those who pick fights with Russia are seldom glad that they have done so, once the combat is over.



Fitness tracking app gives away location of secret US army bases

Data about exercise routes shared online by soldiers can be used to pinpoint overseas facilities

January 28, 2018

by Alex Hern

The Guardian

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

However, over the weekend military analysts noticed that the map is also detailed enough that it potentially gives away extremely sensitive information about a subset of Strava users: military personnel on active service.

Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, first noted the lapse. The heatmap “looks very pretty” he wrote, but is “not amazing for Op-Sec” – short for operational security. “US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.”

“If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous,” Ruser added, highlighting one particular track that “looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”

“In Syria, known coalition (ie US) bases light up the night,” writes analyst Tobias Schneider. “Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures come Monday morning.”

In locations like Afghanistan, Djibouti and Syria, the users of Strava seem to be almost exclusively foreign military personnel, meaning that bases stand out brightly. In Helmand province, Afghanistan, for instance, the locations of forward operating bases can be clearly seen, glowing white against the black map.

Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers. The base itself is not visible on the satellite views of commercial providers such as Google Maps or Apple’s Maps, yet it can be clearly seen through Strava.

Outside direct conflict zones, potentially sensitive information can still be gleaned. For instance, a map of Homey Airport, Nevada – the US Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 – records a lone cyclist taking a ride from the base along the west edge of Groom Lake, marked on the heatmap by a thin red line.

RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands is lit up brightly on the heatmap, reflecting the exercise regimes of the thousand British personnel there – as are nearby Lake Macphee and Gull Island Pond, apparently popular swimming spots.

When Strava released the heatmap, an updated version of one it had previously published in 2015, it announced that “this update includes six times more data than before – in total 1 billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017. Our global heatmap is the largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind. It is a direct visualisation of Strava’s global network of athletes.”

Strava demonstrated that the new heatmap was detailed enough to see kiteboarding in Mexico, to track the route of the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain and to see the sea route of the Ironman triathalon in Kona, Hawaii. Perhaps the closest to the current operational security issues that it noted, however, was the layout of the Burning Man festival in the Nevadan desert. “The unique pentagonal pattern of Burning Man’s pop-up city is forever etched into the Heatmap, thanks to all the runners and cyclists who have used Strava to explore it,” the company wrote.



US joins Poland in fight over pipeline

January 28, 2018

News services

WARSAW, Poland – The United States and Poland on Saturday took a strong stand against a planned gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany, saying it is part of a Kremlin scheme to politicize energy and undermine attempts to make Europe less dependent on Moscow.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Polish Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, after meeting in Warsaw, denounced the pipeline, which would bypass Poland and leave Central Europe vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Poland has repeatedly tried to block the deal, saying it would leave countries like itself and Ukraine vulnerable if Russia decided to shut down the gas pipelines running across their territory to Western Europe. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Poland wanted U.S. help in stopping Nord Stream 2, which is being built by Russian gas giant Gazprom.

Justice showing no sign of retiring

In different circumstances, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be on a valedictory tour in her final months on the Supreme Court. But in the era of President Donald Trump, the 84-year-old Ginsburg is packing her schedule and sending signals she intends to keep her seat on the bench for years.

The eldest Supreme Court justice has produced two of the court’s four signed opinions this term.  And she’s hired law clerks to take her through June 2020, just four months before the next presidential election. She will also be on a speaking tour in Rhode Island on Tuesday, meaning she won’t attend the president’s State of the Union speech that night in Washington.She will stay as long as she can go “full steam,” she says, and she sees as her model John Paul Stevens, who stepped down as a justice in 2010 at age 90.

Koch brothers promote tax plan

The political network backed by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch plans to spend $20 million to promote the tax overhaul recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The investment marks an early focus of the Koch brothers’ 2018 political strategy. It comes as the conservative billionaires work to expand their sweeping efforts to promote a “free society” in America.

Charles Koch and his chief lieutenants previewed their strategy on Saturday, the first day of a three-day private donor retreat at a luxury resort in the California desert.

Saudi prince freed from luxury hotel

Billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who had been held in a luxury hotel since November in a wide-reaching anti-corruption probe that has been shrouded in secrecy and intrigue, was released Saturday, according to three of his associates.

The anti-corruption campaign, however, could still be far from over, with more arrests possible and aftershocks yet to materialize.

The 62-year-old prince had been the most well-known and prominent detainee at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, since Nov. 4, when his much younger cousin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the surprise raids against prominent princes, businessmen, ministers and military officers.


Bitcoin, Along With Other Cryptocurrencies, Collapse Over Crackdown Concerns

January 16, 2018

by Stephen Pope


Bitcoin, as measured in U.S. Dollars, (BTCUSD), retreated over 20% as London markets closed on Tuesday, January 16. Concerns relating to a regulatory crackdown on the market had spread steadily throughout the digital currency sector during the trading day.

The South Korean news website “Yonhap” had earlier reported that Finance Minister, Kim Dong-Yeon had suggested the government would be introducing measures to clamp down on the “… irrational…” cryptocurrency investment craze.

Bitcoin             BTCUSD         11,024.0000     -20.9%

Ethereum         ETHUSD          1,000.8000     -23.3%

Ripple              XRPUSD                 1.1610      -35.6%

(Source: Coinmarketcap)

Bitcoin appears to be heading for its largest one-day fall since September, as in addition to the possible hardline to be taken in South Korea, there is mounting speculation that authorities in the People’s Republic of China will also impose restrictions on trading. A senior official at the People’s Bank of China said the authorities should ban centralised trading of digital currencies and introduce legislation that would prohibit individuals and businesses from providing cryptocurrency related services.

Last year, the Chinese authorities moved to close cryptocurrency exchanges operating on the mainland; a move that sparked a selloff that over the course of several trading sessions amounted to a loss of 34.9%. The market  recovered the lost ground, eventually moving higher, however, not before a great deal of financial damage had been inflicted.

Much of the recent volatility has been driven by regulatory concerns. It seems that many authorities feel the momentum behind the cryptocurrency craze is swiftly reaching a stage where it will be a genie that can no longer be returned to the bottle, i.e. something that monetary authorities cannot control.

Therefore, in a state of, maybe, near panic, the easiest solution is to ban the currencies outright rather than attempt to plot a pathway to a place where “fiat” and “crypto” currencies can peacefully co-exist.

One must ask if imposing a ban is going to prove effective? The trading of cryptocurrencies has been enhanced by the introduction of the futures contracts in December last year. Indeed they have created an extra dimension to the Cryptocurrency space by making the process of shorting Bitcoin that much easier. That makes for a more efficient market, but also one of enhanced speculation.

To my way of thinking, given the currencies exist on a blockchain or even in the ether, trying to corral these instruments is rather like trying to catch smoke in a bag. In short, it is almost impossible.

I do not believe the systematic banning of cryptocurrencies will work with any effectiveness unless, as Germany’s Bundesbank has said, it is undertaken in a globally coordinated manner. So far, there has been little evidence of such coordination.

Good Old Year, Bad New Year

This latest collapse has left Bitcoin, i.e. BTCUSD, lower by 40% from the record high of  USD 19,876.60 on December 17, 2017. That means the market cap of Bitcoin has fallen by roughly USD 130 Billion.

This latest breakdown could open a channel that will not find support until USD 9,900 and after that USD 7,500 would be in sight. Alternatively, there will be bargain hunters that are so sold on the cryptocurrency concept that levels that are lower by 20% or more on the day will be too good to resist snapping up.No-one can say with any certainty from one day to the next how these currencies will trade.

These sessions of extreme volatility will give many fund managers reason to think again before launching cryptocurrency funds. However, given the fact that the crypto space and blockchain technology have added a new dimension to financial markets, wealth management firm “de Vere Group” is confident enough in the long-term future of digital money to launch a cryptocurrency app that allows users to store, transfer and exchange five of the biggest digital coins that are currently traded.

It is well known that cryptocurrencies are highly speculative and there are fears that what was meant to be investment has become addictive gambling. The volatility could easily place a private individual’s entire savings at risk as one bad trade follows another.

That said, in South Korea there is already an organised petition being submitted to the government to prevent a digital currency crackdown. It is reported to have over 200,000 signatures as citizens protest the fact that they the government is stealing their dreams of wealth accumulation.

Far be it from me to approve unnecessary regulation, however, maybe there are times when people need protecting from themselves.


Mexico to send troops to stem violence after record 25,000 murders

January 28, 2018


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican officials said on Sunday the government was set to unleash a new wave of troops to crack down on criminal groups in regions where a surge in violence led to more than 25,000 murders last year.

National Security Commissioner Renato Sales said federal police troops will work with local officials to round up known major criminals and bolster investigations.

The aim was “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans,” he said. He did not provide details on the number of federal police to be deployed.

More than 25,000 murders were recorded last year as rival drug gangs increasingly splintered into smaller, more blood-thirsty groups after more than a decade of a military-led campaign to battle the cartels.

Violence is a central issue ahead of the presidential election in July. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party is trailing in third place in recent polls.

Sales said federal police troops would be deployed in the states of Colima and Baja California Sur, the resort town of Cancun and the border city of Ciudad Juarez, among others. He said more details would be forthcoming within days.

Earlier this month, the United States slapped its most stringent travel warnings on the states of Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Guerrero, ranking them as bad as war-ravaged Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

At least 25 people were murdered in Mexico this weekend, according to officials and local media, including nine men who were executed at a house party in a suburb of the wealthy northern industrial city of Monterrey.

Masked gunmen burst into a home in San Nicholas de los Garza as a group watched a local soccer team play on television, according to state prosecutors. Seven were killed at the scene and two more died later at a hospital.

There were a wave of attacks in night spots late Saturday and early Sunday. A group of armed men killed three people in a bar in the resort city of Cancun, a Chilean tourist was killed in the Pacific beach resort of Acapulco, and two more were killed in a bar in the capital of Veracruz state.

Six more were killed in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and four more died in the border state of Tamaulipas, where at least 10 were killed during the week at outlaw road blockades and in shootouts, local media reported.

Reporting by Michael O’Boyle and Diego Ore; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe


A classic example of disinformation

January 28, 2018

by Christian Jürs

News that Mohamed Atta had been on the payroll of the elite international program surfaced in a curious way just a month after the 9/11 attack: a brief seven-line report by German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Oct. 18, 2001, under the headline “ATTA WAS TUTOR FOR SCHOLARSHIP HOLDERS.”

The story quoted spokesmen for “Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft,” described as a “German international further education organization,” as having admitted paying Hamburg cadre principal Atta as a “scholarship holder” and “tutor,” between 1995 and 1997.

But what makes the story curious is that the German paper concealed the  shocking implications of their story, that Mohamed Atta had been on the payroll of a joint U.S.—German government program, through the simple expedient of neglecting to mention that the “Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft” was merely a private entity set up to administer the “exchange” initiative of the two  governments.

The U.S. end of the program is run out of an address at United Nations Plaza in New York by CDS International. The letters stand for Carl Duisberg Society, also the name of its German counterpart in Cologne, the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft. Both are named for Carl Duisberg, a German chemist and industrialist who headed the Bayer Corporation during the 1920’s.?

The list of elite power brokers backing CDS International ranges from the aforementioned Kissinger and Rockefeller to former President Bill Clinton and other Democratic heavyweights like former First Lady Hillary Clinton and Clinton White House adviser Ira Magaziner.”

One sign of an intelligence asset is his involvement in organizations backed by the Western power elite. The fact that 911 hijacker Mohamed Atta was being paid to “tutor” others in the program means that he was probably an Illuminati Trainer as well. That is, he was involved as a “handler”  of other Illuminati-Intelligence assets as well. In other words, Attah was a programmed multiple that managed other program multiples for the CIA-Illuminati.

This would explain the erratic behavior he exhibited to others, including his one-time American girlfriend in Florida

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