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TBR News July 17, 2020

Jul 17 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments, July 17, 2020:

1917 ’Spanish flu’ statistics….

500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was over 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. That was then. This is now:

TOTAL COVID-19 CASES WORLDWIDE

13.89 million

TOTAL COVID-19 DEATHS WORLDWIDE

589,567

TOTAL RECOVERIES WORLDWIDE

7.55 million

It is obvious that the current virus illnesses and deaths are nothing compared with the 1917 flu epidemic, For most people, Covid-19 is no worse than a bad cold. True, people die from it but people also die of chicken pox, mumps and the standard yearly flu epidemics.

The world media is howling about Covid-19 as if it were a resurrection of the Black Death and the damage this senseless braying is doing to the global economy is beyond belief.

 

The Table of Contents

  • What’s going to give?’: millions fret as Republicans threaten to halt $600 weekly lifesaver
  • Afghanistan Wars: Drugs for Fun and Profit
  • The CIA’s Deutsche Bank
  • 2009-2015: Deutsche Bank Involved in Vast Russian Money Laundering Scheme
  • Accidents on Purpose:The extermination of the Polish government
  • Exclusive: Secret Trump order gives CIA more powers to launch cyberattacks
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

What’s going to give?’: millions fret as Republicans threaten to halt $600 weekly lifesaver
Since March, unemployed Americans have received government money to pay rent and buy food – but if Congress can’t agree a new deal, what then?
July 17, 2020
by Amanda Holpuch
The Guardian

If Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have their way, roughly a week from now, the US will swap an imagined economic problem for a predictably devastating one, economists have warned.

To keep people safe at home during the pandemic and to support them during the resulting jobs crisis, Congress in March instituted a $600 boost to weekly unemployment insurance benefits. Unless lawmakers step in, the money stops on 31 July.

The money is an unusually robust benefit in a country with a weak social safety net. With it, researchers estimated somewhere between 40% and 68% of US workers could make more from unemployment than they did working, because of the high concentration of job losses in low-wage positions.

Republicans, as a result, have warned of hordes of people “disincentivized” from returning to work. But economists say the real crisis is what happens when those same people have $2,400 less each month to pay for bills, rent and groceries.

Sara Gard has been furloughed since April from her hospitality job, and said without the $600, she and her two children will be entirely dependent on her husband’s pay.

“It’s not going to cover everything, so what’s going to give? The house? The food?” Gard said.

Once it is safe to return to work, Gard has a job she loves waiting at a company she admires and has been with for 15 years. But without the $600 boost, she will have to give up the furlough protections to take a new job near her home in Atlanta.

“It is such a feeling of being caged and trapped, and every decision I can make is a bad one,” Gard said.

Gard, 39, is her family’s breadwinner, and she said she would return to her job for less money if it meant she could continue collecting the $600. An added stress for Gard is that at the same time the $600 expires, she is scheduled to also lose state unemployment insurance because of caps on how long people can collect it.

State unemployment averages $340 a week – a 44% replacement of the average worker’s wages. In states with the weakest unemployment benefits, that pay rate is 25% or lower than the average worker’s weekly wage. For people who haven’t already hit the caps, state unemployment is all they will be left with, unless Congress agrees on a replacement.

While the benefits deadlines loomed, Gard was also forced to decide by 10 July whether to send her two-year-old and five-year-old children to school or have them take classes online in the fall.

She tries to compartmentalize the different issues, but said: “It just stops working at some point, because every possibility ends in: if only someone had done something four months ago, I wouldn’t have to be trying to decide if I give up my kindergartner as tribute or what? Or decide that I’m going to not work, but if I do that, do I lose my house? Everything is one domino touching another. It’s just awful.”

The domino effect goes beyond Gard’s family. More than a million people have filed new unemployment claims each week for 16 weeks – women, particularly women of color, are bearing the brunt of the losses. When millions of families have less money to spend, it strains the country’s economy.

Abruptly ending the expansion could cost 2 million jobs by the end of the year, economist Jason Furman warned a House committee in June. The Economic Policy Institute estimated 5 million jobs could be lost by July 2021 if it is cut.

There is also a public health threat if people are forced to return to work in a pandemic which has killed more than 137,000 Americans because they can’t get by without unemployment benefits.

For safety reasons, Samantha Acuna would like to be at home. She is instead working on-call shifts as a cocktail server at a casino pool in Las Vegas where customers are not required to wear masks.

She lives with her parents and her mother has asthma, but people can’t turn down the job they had before the pandemic and still collect benefits, unless they meet specific guidelines.

Acuna gets the $600 boost pro-rated to the days she doesn’t work, but if that money disappears, she’ll have to find a full-time job so she can continue to pay for rent, her car, student loans and phone bills.

“The pandemic is just going to get worse if we don’t pay attention to it,” Acuna said. “So I would just rather keep that income so I could be home and this could all just finish quicker.”

Democrats have introduced legislation that would extend the program, with limits. Republicans have said they are against the $600, but have not said what they would replace it with.

Both parties have been on a two-week recess which ends on Friday – two weeks before the program’s official expiration on 31 July. For most people, however, payments actually stop a week earlier.

The $600 expansion is far from perfect, but it is a welcome solution in a country with antiquated and underfunded unemployment systems, which have left millions without benefits months after filing claims. In Alabama, people slept overnight in a parking lot so they could speak with a representative from the state’s unemployment agency.

Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the not-for-profit National Employment Law Project, said: “We’ve systemically gutted every other piece of the social safety net, unemployment insurance too.”

Evermore said since the last recession, state governments have made benefits more difficult to access and reduced the amount of benefits. The Cares Act, which included the $600 expansion, papered over these problems.

Without it, they are likely to come back in full force.

“When systems are set up with the aim of catching people, trapping people, cutting off people, you can’t just turn that around overnight when you want to pay benefits quickly,” Evermore said.

She said the persistent myth that people collect unemployment to take advantage of the system ignores how important the benefit is for the national economy. “This is a system that has been undermined for a while, and this is the moment we can use to put in place permanent reforms, now and forever,” said Evermore.

Research published in June by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found people receiving normal unemployment benefits “search more intensely for work” than unemployed people who don’t receive them. “During the current economic climate, one could expect a greater share of the unemployed to receive UI [unemployment insurance] benefits and to search more intensely for work,” the article said.

In mid-March, Karen Kent was laid off from her job as a cafeteria worker in New Jersey. She has been looking for jobs because without the $600 she will have to find work. But so far, her searches have only turned up jobs with direct customer contact, something she can’t face because she has asthma and a heart condition.

The $600 has been a “lifesaver” for Kent, 47. Her husband is still working, but it is not enough to support the family. He also lost a part-time job at a restaurant which he had so his family could get dental insurance.

“This was starting to give me a foot back in the door to have hope, I felt like I was working towards something, and they just want to take it away,” Kent said. “I work hard. I am a workhorse.”

Kent is a fighter. She corners politicians at public events and rallies people on social media, but she is concerned that the situation she and others face is not reaching the political class. Kent said: “I feel like they need the working class, but we’re getting beaten down.”

Afghanistan Wars: Drugs for Fun and Profit
Why is the US still in Afghanistan?

It ought to be recognized that part of the so-called Afghan opium pipeline runs through the United Arab Emirates on its way to Kosovo where it is refined into heroin and shipped up into Europe.

Opium crops located in Afghanistan, over 95% of the world’s opium production, is protected by US CIA people and elements of the American military who have made themselves responsible for the bulk of the illegal heroin markets worldwide.

There is a deliberate effort to convince the bulk of the public that opium in Afghanistan  is a Taliban operation but in fact it is not

An ‘Afghanistan Opium Survey’ details the ongoing and steady rise of Afghan opium production. In stated: “In 2016, opium production had increased by approximately 25 times in relation to its 2001 levels, from 185 tons in 2001 to 4800 tons in 2016.”

In 2011 a US MI report had stated, very clearly, that US military convoys operating from Pakistani ports were specifically used to ship both raw opium and refined heroin out of that country and to South American ports.

And then there are the origins, and development of the CIA’s modus operandi.

In what is called the Golden Triangle area, during the Vietnam war, when the CIA imposed a food-for-opium scheme on Hmong tribesmen from Laos — complete with a heroin refinery at the CIA headquarters in northern Laos and the set-up of nefarious Air America to export the raw gum opium by CIA-owned aircraft, to Columbia where it was, and is, being refined into heroin.

During its involvement with the war in SEA, the CIA used the Hmong groups to counter the activities of the Pathet Lao groups. The Hmongs used the profits from their opium productions to live on. The CIA protected the opium trade and very soon, realizing the profits to be made from it, expanded their control over the opium-growing business.  The Hmong were very important to CIA operations and the CIA was very concerned with their well-being. The CIA began to export raw opium from the north and east of the Plain of Jars to Long Tieng and later, during the height of the Vietnam wars, began to take a great interest in the very large and successful Afghanistani opium fields.

A Pakistani intelligence report based on Pashtun sources, most specifically indicates that the controlling factor in the opium production is not Muslim but American.

According to Pakistani government intelligence, the CIA is heavily involved with al-Quaeda and IS and introduced them into Afghanistan for guerrilla actions so as to be able to convince Washington to increase the number of American troops into that country to protect the highly profitable opium fields.

If one looks at a map showing the locations of the known opium fields in Afghanistan and then looks at another map showing US military units in place, the two are nearly identical.

Russian intelligence is well aware that the US CIA and the Pentagon are secretly supporting the Saudi-raised Sunni IS, a branch of which is now very active in Afghanistan.

It is very well known that a major portion of Afghanistani gum opium is taken over by CIA people and most of it is shipped to Columbia.

A portion of this opium goes to Kosovo where it is also refined and then shipped up through Germany to Russia. This annoys the Russians who have made a strong effort to put a halt to something that killed over 50,000 Russians last year from heroin overdoses.

Here we have an interesting situation.

Russia, with good reason, objects to having heroin smuggled into her country and attempts to put a stop to it.

The United States, a country that, via its agencies, is heavily involved in the international drug trade, objects to this attitude.

Therefore, in addition to all Russia’s oil and gas which America badly needs, the US has an excellent motive for making Russia a handy enemy.

Enemies are necessary to stimulate public support for more profitable (to some at least) small wars.

The CIA’s Deutsche Bank

The large German financial conglomerate Deutsche Bank, later to become one of Donald Trump’s favored institutions, became entangled with Russia after the bank bought boutique investment bank UFG in order to gain entry into Moscow’s financial markets. UFG’s chairman, Charles Ryan, was an American banker; his partner was Boris Fyodorov, formerly Russia’s Finance Minister in the Yeltsin administration. Deutsche’s future co-CEO, Anshu Jain, was the one who wants Deutsche to become more involved with Russia.

Other investment banks soon found Deutsche’s business practices suspicious. Christopher Barter, at the time the CEO of Goldman Sachs Moscow, said later: “They were doing some very curious things. Nobody could make sense of their business. We found the nature and concentration of their business with VTB (Vneshtorgbank) quite galling. Nobody else could touch VTB.” VTB was known to be deeply connected to Russian intelligence, the FSB.

It is possible for history to repeat itself, as many current developments show. Following the collapse of the Russian Empire, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia remained under the control of communists; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland became independent. The newly liberated countries established highly democratic parliaments, elected by proportional representation. This system led to many fragmented parties in the parliaments and it was impossible to form stable, properly functioning governments. People were disappointed in democracy and wanted a more stable order. This resulted in those four countries falling under the rule of authoritarians: Jȯzef Piłsudski in Poland in 1926, Antanas Smetona in Lithuania (1929), and Kārlis Ulmanis in Latvia and Konstantin Päts in Estonia (both in 1934).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union Boris Yeltsin began to democratise Russia. This lasted until Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000. Putin began to slowly reduce personal freedoms and freedom of speech. After his third re-election further restrictions on freedom were imposed and the levers of the economy were handed to the Kremlin’s loyal oligarchs. In Belarus the reign of dictator Alexander Lukashenko started in 1994. This year Ukraine elected a new president, Volodimir Zelensky, and we have no idea what direction the country will take from now on. The Baltic states are still democratic, but Poland is already drifting away from democracy.

After World War I the Soviet Union, one of the winners, and Germany from the losing side signed the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922. This included a secret clause, denied by both sides as its contents contravened the Treaty of Versailles, which demanded the comprehensive destruction of Germany’s heavy artillery and limited its army to 100,000 men. Under the terms of the secret clause, the Soviet Union allowed the German army to start training on its territory with heavy weaponry and its pilots using Fokker planes. In addition, German officers started training Russian military units. As a result of the secret clause a training centre for pilots was established in Lipetsk in 1924, and in 1929 one for land forces was opened in Kazan and a chemical weapons factory was built in Samara Oblast. The mutual military collaboration lasted until 1935, when Germany unilaterally revoked the Treaty of Versailles’ military restrictions, established compulsory military service and started rebuilding its military industry independently.

Four years later, on 23 August 1939, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed. On 1 September 1939, World War II began in Europe. Both parties invaded Poland and divided it up according to the borders laid down in a secret protocol to the pact. A new phase of military and economic collaboration began immediately. The Soviet Ministry of Defence Industry drafted a list of military equipment that it wished to purchase. Roughly a billion Reichsmarks—an astronomical amount at the time—was allocated for the purchase. General Gussev and a large group of experts visited all of Germany’s largest weapons factories, including Junkers, Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Hensche, Bosch and Siemens. Aircraft and other purchased equipment started to arrive in the Soviet Union in April 1940. The German invasion of the country began on 22 June 1941.

The reasons for the collaboration between the former enemies were geopolitical. The Soviet Union needed to rebuild its underdeveloped and collapsed economy and Germany needed raw materials, which the USSR had in abundance. Besides, both parties wanted to quickly restore their military strength. However, there has been a significant shift. Putin wants to make Russia a significant major military power again while Germany is endeavouring to become an economic superpower. German businessmen and banks see Russia as a great chance to establish long-lasting and mutually beneficial business relations. In 2006, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, suggested a so-called rapprochement policy that would mutually bind the two countries. This led to many interesting developments, of which a few are given here. Dr Burckhard Bergmann, the chairman of Ruhrgas, was elected as a director of Gazprom in 2006. Professor Klaus Mangold, a board member of Daimler AG, became the Russian honorary consul in Baden-Württemberg. The CEO of Nord Stream, Matthias Warnig, became the chairman of the board at Dresdner Bank in Moscow. (Warnig started his career not as a bank employee but as an officer in the Stasi, East Germany’s intelligence agency.) Although the sanctions imposed over events in Crimea since 2014, which led to a noticeable reduction in German-Russian commerce, are still in place, trade has started to develop again in recent years and more than 5,500 German businesses are now active in Russia.

Putin’s  personal friendships with leading socialists in Germany such as Schroeder and Steinmeier cannot go unmentioned. Schroeder was chancellor of Germany from 1998 to 2005 and leader of the Social Democratic Party from 1999 to 2004. Steinmeier was responsible for coordinating Germany’s intelligence services (1999–2005), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2005–9 and 2013–17) and since 2017 has been Germany’s president.

After Schroeder left public service, he became the highly-paid (350,000 euros a year) chairman of the Nord Stream shareholders’ committee. Gazprom owns 51% percent of Nord Stream shares, which means that Putin has full control over the venture and Schroeder’s activities. Before Schroeder left his position as chancellor, he approved a billion-dollar loan to Gazprom, which created a lot of controversy in the German media.

Steinmeier has become a committed supporter of Kremlin policy, but nevertheless helped Estonia during the Bronze Night crisis. During the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, for instance, he strongly opposed giving Ukraine and Georgia the opportunity to become candidate members. Following Russia’s attack on Georgia, he did not support the imposition of sanctions against Moscow. After the outbreak of war in Ukraine in 2014, Steinmeier’s motto was that there should be negotiations with Moscow, but nothing more.8 However, he and US president Barack Obama were both against weapons being sent to Ukraine which could help to defend the country. Now, five years later, president Donald Trump has corrected this grave mistake, but at what cost to Ukraine?

The leaders of other German parties have also been Russia-oriented. For instance, the leader of the German Greens, the ultra-radical and anti-bourgeoisie Joschka Fischer, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1998–2005), and the leader of the Free Democratic Party, Guido Westerwelle, was foreign minister and vice chancellor of Germany from 2009–to 2011. In 2003, at Putin’s request, he supported a proposal to give Russian government officials, but not other Russians, visa-free access within the EU. This proposal was not accepted by the rest of the Union.9 In 2009, five months after Georgia had been attacked, Fischer suggested giving Russia a bigger role in NATO and eventually accepting Russia as a member. Die Linke (the successor to the East German Communist Party) promotes itself as Russia’s biggest and closest friend.

The general attitude of many right-wing parties is to stress the values of domestic nationalism and to be against Atlanticism (i.e. the US). Moreover, their aim is to break Germany’s ties with Western principles and therefore distance themselves from NATO and the EU. The most radical right-wing party is Alternative for Germany (AfD). One of its political aims is to improve German-Russian relations based on historical events and agreements, the origins of empress Catherine the Great, and the pro-Russia agreements and policies of Otto von Bismarck (Prussian Ambassador in St. Petersburg 1859–62 and later German chancellor).

Such high-level politicians have great power to influence their country’s policies and to use it on the international stage. Their statements affect the attitudes of other countries towards US and Russian proposals in international organisations. It’s no surprise that the leaders of the parties who constantly fight for power have to express their beliefs every time before elections to attract voters. From this it seems that Germany’s entire political landscape―from extreme left to extreme right―has gradually come to support Russia.

The analogy with the Treaty of Rapallo began during Yeltsin’s government. In 1993 the Russian and German ministers of defence signed an open agreement on defence force collaboration. In 2011 the public learned that Rheinmetall, the largest company in the German defence industry and known to Western defence forces for its Leopard tank, had concluded an agreement with the Russian minister of defence; Rheinmetall would build a new military training base for Russia which would be equipped with cutting-edge technology that enables realistic battlefield landscapes to be simulated for training purposes. It costs 280 million euros and can take 30,000 soldiers a year. In addition, it decreases the training time for soldiers and therefore costs. The same year, a memorandum on mutual military training for officers and non-commissioned officers was added to the agreement. This transaction would give the Russian army the best training in German (or even NATO?) army practice and techniques. American political analyst Jakub Grygiel called it the German-Russian military honeymoon. In 2012 the former chairman of the Rheinmetall board, Klaus Eberhardt, boasted that the company’s new armoured cars were already being tested in Russia.

What is happening right now is very similar to the military collaboration that took place after World War I. Back then collaboration was highly classified, and it later led to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Apart from the reports about Rheinmetall, the German press has not touched on this topic. Why is there no public discussion and debate about it? Several years ago, public debate and condemnation forced France to cancel the construction of aircraft carriers for the Russian navy.

In the 1920s Rheinmetall helped the Soviet Union under the Treaty of Rapallo so it could violate the Treaty of Versailles, which the Russian government had earlier approved. Large German companies such as Krupp and Siemens were building a military base for Russia in the 1920s and are doing the same now. But what kind of activity are they involved in?

What does Germany’s general political distancing from the US and rapprochement with Russia mean for NATO—and, therefore, for our defence? Here are some defence data found on the internet.

  • Russian forces: 1,013,000 men; 2,572,000 in reserve
  • US forces: 1,358,000 men; 811,000 in reserve; 200,000 of the active forces are in Europe. Following the annexation of Crimea, the US sent an additional 200,000 men
  • Total NATO forces: 1,931,000 men, of which 176,000 are German and 355,000 Turkish.

The size of the Baltic states’ defence forces is as follows: Estonia 6,600; Latvia 5,300; Lithuania 18,300.

We specifically mention the German and Turkish contribution to NATO because political developments in both countries have started to undermine NATO’s defence capabilities; for example, Germany’s recent decision to reduce defence expenditure allocated to NATO in a couple of years’ time. This has never reached the 2% of GDP target established in NATO agreements. Reduced expenditure is not linked to economic hardship as the country’s budget has had a surplus for the past five years; in 2018 the surplus was 11.2 billion euros. This seemed a signal to Russia that Germany has taken the course of not following the US lead. The pro-Russian and anti-American attitudes spreading among voters support the government’s decision to reduce NATO’s defence capabilities.

Turkey decided to buy an S-400 missile defence system from Russia, which will enable the Russians to observe the defence and aiming techniques of US fighter aircraft, as these planes are the main weapons of the Turkish air force and are constantly in the air. This decision has strained US-Turkish relations. On 13 July the Wall Street Journal reported that the Russian missile defence system had arrived.15 A few days later the US announced that it would cancel the sale of new aircraft to Turkey. Now it seems that either Turkey will leave NATO of its own volition or it will be expelled. The impact of this policy on NATO is clearly shown by the military force comparison above. If NATO continues to exist and Turkey and Germany do not take part in some of its defence operations, the Alliance’s defensive capability will decrease by 27%.

At the annual Munich Security Conference in February 2019 US vice president Mike Pence stressed the need for all NATO members to increase their defence spending to 2% of GDP and condemned Nord Stream 2, which would make NATO countries directly dependent on Russia. Angela Merkel, by contrast, stressed the importance of multilateralism and Europe’s aspiration to find economic and political solutions.16 Merkel has been a strong advocate for NATO so far, but it is unclear if this can continue given the change in people’s attitudes towards it.

In April, NATO celebrated its 70th anniversary. For that occasion, a draft report by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Political Committee was presented for discussion and finalising. The report summarised NATO’s contribution to the security and stability of the Transatlantic region. Two new external threats were highlighted―international terrorist groups, and a resurgent and assertive Russia―as well as internal challenges.

To combat international terrorism NATO acted under the auspices of the UN under the name International Security Assistance Force. Due to the Russian annexation of the Crimea and attack on Ukraine, NATO had to restore the principle of territorial protection. To achieve this, the regular NATO Response Force was improved and the Very High Readiness Joint Taskforce (VJTF) created. The VJTF includes 19 of the 29 NATO member states. This group now protects the Baltic airspace on a rotational basis.

In addition to external threats, beliefs in the societies of NATO member states have begun to change, which undermines the fundamental pillars of those countries―personal freedom, implementing democracy, protecting human rights and following legal norms. The main indicators of change in society are the populism and illiberalism that have emerged in many countries in recent years.

It appears that Steinmeier’s justification 13 years ago for rapprochement—that close relations and economic ties help to democratise Russia and turn it into a normal country—has failed, as did Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. The Soviet Union took advantage of the latter by intervening in Angola’s civil war (by buying off Cuban mercenaries) and occupying Afghanistan. As of today, Russia hasn’t become more liberal and democratic as Steinmeier hoped. Instead of becoming a normal country, the number of state-owned enterprises in Russia has grown and there have been more and more restrictions on human rights. According to the Freedom House report “Freedom in the World 2018”, Russia is considered “not free”, gaining a score of only 20 out of a hundred. For comparison, Finland scored 100, the UK 94, Estonia 94, Lithuania 91, Latvia 87, the US 86 and Poland 85; Ukraine scored 62 (“partly free”) and Belarus 21 (“not free”).

In terms of foreign policy Russia has managed to position itself well in many parts of the world, such as Syria and Venezuela. It also sells around the world weapons built using German technology. German industrialists are, however, tied to Russia by large investments, bank loans and the need for oil, and cannot publicly protest against Putin’s violations of human rights and other restrictions. This mutual dependence could cause great harm to the German economy, as a dictator has the power to turn off the economic taps. The Soviet Union did this with Finland, keeping it neutral in the political battle between East and West.

After World War I the Soviet Union started to develop its military potential with the help of German industry. Putin is doing the same today. The results can clearly be seen. The USSR made a grave mistake when sending its forces into Afghanistan. But Putin has avoided making the Soviet Union’s mistakes. Instead he has taken over areas in several countries with a large Russian population that he considers his; Georgia lost two provinces and Ukraine lost Crimea and the Donbas region. Pressure from Western countries, particularly from the German chancellor Angela Merkel, led to the Minsk agreements, but even that hasn’t managed to bring the war to an end and save Ukraine’s integrity. Georgia and Ukraine were not members of NATO and due to Germany’s opposition never even became candidate members. What happens if Putin decides to expand his power in the Baltics, conquering areas where there is a large Russian population? Can we be sure that NATO’s Article 5, which is meant to protect us, will be invoked if necessary, given the changing beliefs in current NATO countries highlighted as an internal challenge in the Alliance’s 70th-anniversary report?

2009-2015: Deutsche Bank Involved in Vast Russian Money Laundering Scheme

Tim Wiswell, an American whose father worked in oil and gas in Soviet Russia and who spent a year at the Anglo-American School in Russia, took over the post of Russian equities at Deutsche Bank, which was the only bank that would loan Donald Trump any significant amount of money.

Wiswell worked at Moscow’s Alfa Bank before moving to Deutsche Bank Moscow. Under Wiswell, the bank’s profits in the Russian equities section skyrocket, enough to draw scrutiny.

Christopher Barter, the CEO of Goldman Sachs Moscow, suspected that illicit financial maneuvers were going on under Wiswell’s leadership. Barter later recalled being approached by “broker types, not very senior,” wishing to do large, unexplained numbers of trades with his firm on behalf of unnamed major Russian clients.

Barter examined the deals, and determined that the identities of the Russian partners were hidden behind layers of shell companies, making due diligence impossible.

Barter turned down these proposals. Wiswell welcomed them. Between 2011 and 2015, Wiswell oversaw what investigators later determined to be a vast money laundering scheme on behalf of numerous Russians, many with ties to the Russian mob.

Over $10 billion was shifted from Russia to selected institutions in the West. The method is simple but effective. In Moscow, a Russian client bought blue-chip Russian stocks from Deutsche Bank Moscow in companies like Gazprom or Sberbank. The payments were in rubles.

The size of a typical order was $2 million to $3 million. Shortly afterward, a non-Russian ‘customer’ sold exactly the same number of securities to Deutsche Bank in London, paying in dollars.” There is no economic reason for these “mirror trades,” the investigators determine.

The entire idea was to move illegally gained funds from Russia and convert them into dollars, where they can be used without fear of exposure. Wiswell and his clients used banks in offshore territories such as Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Wiswell handled any questions by giving other banks soothing reassurances, while threatening and berating his colleagues to keep their mouths shut and speed the transactions along.

Wiswell also was tasked with keeping his Russian clients happy, which involved things like skiing trips, island getaways, and visits to elite nightclubs. Wiswell’s Russian wife became the owner of two offshore companies, in Cyprus and the BVI, and began accepting lavish payments for “financial consulting.”

Investigators call those “undisclosed compensations” to be bribes, cleared by Deutsche Bank in New York. In August 2015, Deutsche Bank suspended and then fired Wiswell, who promptly disappeared from public view. Some reports have said tha he is now in Moscow again. In a wrongful dismissal suit, Wiswell painted himself as a fall guy for the bank’s senior executives. The money laundering scandal did terrific harm to Deutsche Bank’s reputation, and cost the bank $475 million in fines. Later examinations determined that the bank’s Moscow branch had been “taken over” by Vneshtorgbank (VTB), a state-run bank with deep ties to Russian intelligence

Accidents on Purpose: The extermination of the Polish government
July 17, 2020
by Christian Jürs

Pity the poor Ukrainians, so far from God and so close to the United States.

When the Ukraine separated from Russia, it was with the assistance of the American CIA and when a pro-Russian president came into office there, the same CIA moved to remove him.

The Ukraine is important to the United States because she then controlled the strategically important Crimea with its extensive offshore oil deposits and, more important, the large former Soviet naval base at Sevastopol. One of the demands of the CIA when it worked to remove the pro-Russian president was that the lease the Russians had on this base would be cancelled and the U.S. Navy given the same lease.

This would give the US a naval presence in the Black Sea, part of the encirclement of Russia. To facilitate this, a CIA-trained unit started protest meetings in Kiev and to sharpen their demands, on February 20, 2014, a large public meeting in Kiev’s Maidan square had hidden snipers shoot into the crowd, killing over 50 people. This created the necessary push for a successful anti-Russian putsch.

Acts of violence resulting in the deaths of many people seemed to be the norm in the encirclement campaign against Russia

On 10 April 2010, a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft of the Polish Air Force crashed near the city of Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 people on board. Among the victims were the President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre. The group was arriving from Warsaw to attend an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the massacre, which took place not far from Smolensk.

The pilots were attempting to land at Smolensk North Airport – a former military airbase – in thick fog, with visibility reduced to about 500 meters (1,600 ft). The aircraft descended far below the normal approach path until it struck trees, rolled inverted and crashed into the ground, coming to rest in a wooded area a short distance from the runway.

In this case, a man code-named ‘Corey’ was able to alter the signals on the airport landing area to show the ground twenty-seven feet lower than it actually was.

‘Corey’ was a member of a CIA group called ‘Summerfield II’ that was run by a CIA officer named Russle.

His real name is George Macalister, his date of birth is 5.29.42 and his American Social Security number SS # 465-80-9315, his email address is :

george_macalister@hotmail.com  (G137596.)

The reason why the aircraft was destroyed is because the US wanted Poland to be a supportive member of countries facing Russia who were to form a bloc of American-supportive entites designed to threaten Russia both militarily and economically. The Poles were flying to Smolensk to take part, with Russian officials in a memorial to the Stalin-killed Polish officers at Katyn during the Second World War. This rapproachment was anathema to the CIA and had to be somehow disrupted. Hence we had the entire Polish government wiped out in a single action as an object lesion to others.

After the installation of a CIA-friendly government in the Ukraine and a pending revoking of the Russian lease on the Sebastopol naval base, on April 15, 2014, CIA Director John Brennan and is staff flew into Kiev and met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema to discuss the formation of new, more secure channels for sharing U.S. intelligence with the country now fighting pro-Russian secessionists in its eastern cities.

Shortly after this, on July 17,  2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The rocket projectors used in this attack were of Russian origin but had been sold to the Ukrainian military ten years earlier.

This operation was also run by the ‘Summerfield II’ people.

And note that the two ships that caught on fire were dealing in oil from a country that the US had sanctioned. It has been reliably reported that external sabotage was the reason for the explosions and fire and that the group responsible for the sabotage are headquarted in the same building in Kiev that also houses the large CIA unit.

Mr. Macalister, now retired, lives in Vienna, Virginia and no doubt enjoys leafing through his scrapbook filled with photographs and old newspaper clippings depicting international incidents involving large death tolls.

Exclusive: Secret Trump order gives CIA more powers to launch cyberattacks
July 15, 2020
by Zach Dorfman, Kim Zetter, Jenna McLaughlin and Sean D. Naylor
Yahoo News

The Central Intelligence Agency has conducted a series of covert cyber operations against Iran and other targets since winning a secret victory in 2018 when President Trump signed what amounts to a sweeping authorization for such activities, according to former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

The secret authorization, known as a presidential finding, gives the spy agency more freedom in both the kinds of operations it conducts and who it targets, undoing many restrictions that had been in place under prior administrations. The finding allows the CIA to more easily authorize its own covert cyber operations, rather than requiring the agency to get approval from the White House.

Unlike previous presidential findings that have focused on a specific foreign policy objective or outcome — such as preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power — this directive, driven by the National Security Council and crafted by the CIA, focuses more broadly on a capability: covert action in cyberspace.

The “very aggressive” finding “gave the agency very specific authorities to really take the fight offensively to a handful of adversarial countries,” said a former U.S. government official. These countries include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — which are mentioned directly in the document — but the finding potentially applies to others as well, according to another former official. “The White House wanted a vehicle to strike back,” said the second former official. “And this was the way to do it.”

The CIA’s new powers are not about hacking to collect intelligence. Instead, they open the way for the agency to launch offensive cyber operations with the aim of producing disruption — like cutting off electricity or compromising an intelligence operation by dumping documents online — as well as destruction, similar to the U.S.-Israeli 2009 Stuxnet attack, which destroyed centrifuges that Iran used to enrich uranium gas for its nuclear program.

The finding has made it easier for the CIA to damage adversaries’ critical infrastructure, such as petrochemical plants, and to engage in the kind of hack-and-dump operations that Russian hackers and WikiLeaks popularized, in which tranches of stolen documents or data are leaked to journalists or posted on the internet. It has also freed the agency to conduct disruptive operations against organizations that were largely off limits previously, such as banks and other financial institutions.

Another key change with the finding is it lessened the evidentiary requirements that limited the CIA’s ability to conduct covert cyber operations against entities like media organizations, charities, religious institutions or businesses believed to be working on behalf of adversaries’ foreign intelligence services, as well as individuals affiliated with these organizations, according to former officials.

“Before, you would need years of signals and dozens of pages of intelligence to show that this thing is a de facto arm of the government,” a former official told Yahoo News. Now, “as long as you can show that it vaguely looks like the charity is working on behalf of that government, then you’re good.”

The CIA has wasted no time in exercising the new freedoms won under Trump. Since the finding was signed two years ago, the agency has carried out at least a dozen operations that were on its wish list, according to this former official. “This has been a combination of destructive things — stuff is on fire and exploding — and also public dissemination of data: leaking or things that look like leaking.”

Some CIA officials greeted the new finding as a needed reform that allows the agency to act more nimbly. “People were doing backflips in the hallways [when it was signed],” said another former U.S. official.

But critics, including some former U.S. officials, see a potentially dangerous attenuation of intelligence oversight, which could have unintended consequences and even put people’s lives at risk, according to former officials.

The involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies in hack-and-dump activities also raises uncomfortable comparisons for some former officials. “Our government is basically turning into f****ing WikiLeaks, [using] secure communications on the dark web with dissidents, hacking and dumping,” said one such former official.

The CIA declined to comment or respond to an extensive list of questions from Yahoo News. The National Security Council did not respond to multiple written requests for comment.

While the CIA has been pushing for years to expand its cyber authorities, Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led Obama officials to grasp for new ways to retaliate against the Kremlin. High-level discussions included proposals for the CIA to dump embarrassing hacked information about Russian officials online, as well as to destroy Russian servers, according to former officials.

But just days away from launching operations in the late summer of 2016, intelligence operatives were told to stand down, according to former officials. The decision to do so was made at the highest levels of the Obama administration, according to a former senior national security official.

During the early days of the Trump administration, intelligence officials were hopeful that the president would give the go-ahead to those operations. But senior Trump officials weren’t interested in retaliating against Russia for the election interference, according to a former official. “It was radio silence,” the former official said. “It all dissipated, went to nothing.”

While plans for immediate cyber retaliation against Russia faded, discussions about expanding the CIA’s cyber authorities continued to accelerate under Trump. For years, the CIA had bristled under what some intelligence officials considered onerous barriers to covert action in cyberspace that prevented it from even proposing many operations, according to former officials.

When it came to covert action, “you always had the two camps [inside the CIA],” said Robert Eatinger, who served at the CIA for 24 years, including a stint as the agency’s top lawyer. There were “those who felt that their hands were too tied, and those who felt the restrictions were wise and appropriate,” recalled Eatinger, who said he has no knowledge of the CIA cyber finding signed by Trump and wouldn’t discuss specific incidents that occurred during his time with the agency.

Advocates for greater cyber authorities gained the upper hand in these debates under the Trump administration, which encouraged the CIA to stretch its prior authorities to pursue more aggressive offensive cyber operations — particularly against Iran. “Trump wanted to push decision making to the lowest possible denominator,” said a former intelligence official.

Mike Pompeo made that point clear after Trump made him CIA director in January 2017. Pompeo’s message, the former official said, was: “We don’t want to hold you up, we want to move, move, move.”

A current senior intelligence official, who declined to discuss specific U.S. government operations or policies, called Trump-era interest in offensive operations “phenomenal.” The CIA, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon “have been able to play like we should be playing in the last couple years,” the current official said.

John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser in April 2018 gave another boost to those seeking to ease restrictions on cyber operations. “We needed to scrap the Obama-era rules and replace them with a more agile, expeditious decision-making structure,” Bolton writes in his recently published memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.” Part of this involved strengthening the U.S. government’s “clandestine capabilities” in cyberspace against “nonstate actors” and others, he writes.

In September 2018, Bolton announced that Trump had signed a presidential directive easing Obama-era rules governing military cyber operations. Although the administration disclosed the existence of that directive — known as National Security Presidential Memorandum 13 — the underlying rules of engagement for military cyber operations remain secret. The administration also kept secret the CIA finding, which gave the agency its new authorities.

The CIA’s new cyber powers prompted concerns among some officials. “Trump came in and way overcorrected,” said a former official. Covert cyber operations that in the past would have been rigorously vetted through the NSC, with sometimes years-long gaps between formulation and execution, now go “from idea to approval in weeks,” said the former official.

Former officials declined to speak in detail about cyber operations the CIA has carried out as a result of the finding, but they said the agency has already conducted covert hack-and-dump actions aimed at both Iran and Russia.

For example, the CIA has dumped information online about an ostensibly independent Russian company that was “doing work for Russian intelligence services,” said a former official. While the former official declined to be more specific, BBC Russia reported in July 2019 that hackers had breached the network of SyTech, a company that does work for the FSB, Russia’s domestic spy agency, and stolen about 7.5 terabytes of data; the data from that hack was passed to media organizations.

In another stunning hack-and-dump operation, an unknown group in March 2019 posted on the internet chat platform Telegram the names, addresses, phone numbers and photos of Iranian intelligence officers allegedly involved in hacking operations, as well as hacking tools used by Iranian intelligence operatives. That November, the details of 15 million debit cards for customers of three Iranian banks linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were also dumped on Telegram.

Although sources wouldn’t say if the CIA was behind those Iran breaches, the finding’s expansion of CIA authorities to target financial institutions, such as an operation to leak bank card data, represents a significant escalation in U.S. cyber operations. Under prior administrations, senior Treasury Department officials argued successfully against leaking or wiping out banking data, according to former officials, because it could destabilize the global financial system. These were operations the “CIA always knew were an option, but were always a bridge too far,” said a former official. “They had been bandied about at senior levels for a long time, but cooler heads had always prevailed.”

The new cyber finding further emboldened the CIA’s operations against Iran, according to former officials. Even before Trump signed the directive, administration officials were already encouraging the CIA to aggressively interpret preexisting secret Iran-related authorities to help prosecute the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. Using the Cold War strategy of rolling back the Soviet Union as inspiration, senior Trump national security officials believed that destabilizing Iran within its borders would force the regime to cease its adventurism abroad and, perhaps, collapse.

The maximum-pressure campaign includes punishing economic sanctions, but has also involved CIA cyberattacks on Iranian infrastructure, said former officials. “It was obvious that destabilization was the plan on Iran,” said one former official, and Trump administration officials were eager to have the CIA conduct destructive cyber operations against targets inside that country. Bolton “wanted another tool, he wanted another hammer. He was looking at Stuxnet and how to be mean to Iran, so that was probably attractive to him,” said another source.

The Trump administration was able to lean on extensive legal powers for covert action against the Islamic Republic that were already on the books, including a presidential finding dating back at least to the early 2000s devoted to counterproliferation — in other words, preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, according to former officials. Another long-standing Iran-focused presidential finding authorizes the CIA to counter Tehran’s influence in the Middle East, in particular by combating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and by supporting groups in the region opposed to the regime, according to former U.S. officials.

Neither these two Iran-related findings, nor the new cyber finding, mention regime change as a stated goal, according to former officials. Over time, however, the CIA and other national security officials have interpreted the first two Iran findings increasingly broadly, with covert activities evolving from their narrow focus on stopping Tehran’s nuclear program, they said. The Iran findings have been subject to “classic mission creep,” said one former official.

Fatigue from having to continually beat back Iran’s nuclear progress gradually led U.S. officials to take an even more aggressive approach that began to resemble a regime change strategy, according to former officials. The thinking became “If we can impact the regime, then no bomb,” said another former official. “We’re playing semantics — destabilization is functionally the same thing as regime change. It’s a deniability issue,” the former official said.

While the CIA’s new powers expand the agency’s ability to target Iran and other foreign adversaries, they also present potential pitfalls, according to former officials. The CIA and the Pentagon have long tussled over authorities in cyberspace, and these coordination issues will only become more critical now, according to former officials — especially when U.S. military operatives online unknowingly run up against their counterparts from the CIA.

“If you’re doing something on someone’s network and you have friendly forces also on the network, you don’t want to have fratricide,” said a former senior military intelligence official. Even inside the U.S. intelligence community, the CIA has a reputation for secrecy, according to former officials. The CIA’s “deconfliction is poor, they’re not keeping people in the loop on what their cyber operations are,” said another former official.

Some former officials even worry about the oversight of cyber operations within the CIA. Agency cyber operatives “weren’t always transparent” about their activities, said a former senior official. “It was a problem. There were times I was surprised.”

This more permissive environment may also intensify concerns about the CIA’s ability to secure its hacking arsenal. In 2017, WikiLeaks published a large cache of CIA hacking tools known as “Vault 7.” The leak, which a partially declassified CIA assessment called “the largest data loss in CIA history,” was made possible by “woefully lax” security practices at the CIA’s top hacker unit, the assessment said.

Eatinger, the former top CIA attorney, who retired in 2015, said it’s unclear to him whether the new cyber finding would be a return to the agency’s more freewheeling days of the 1980s, or something that goes even further. Either way, it’s a “big deal,” he said.

Removing NSC oversight of covert operations is a significant departure from recent history, according to Eatinger. “I would look at the intel community as the same as the military in that there should be civilian control of big decisions — who to go to war against, who to launch an attack against, who to fight a particular battle,” he said. “It makes sense that you would have that kind of civilian or non-intelligence civilian leadership for activities as sensitive as covert action.”

Regardless, these expansive new cyber powers may become a lasting legacy of the Trump administration, solidifying the greater role the CIA has long coveted in a key arena, and providing the agency with authorities it has desired for three presidential administrations.

“People thought, ‘Hey, George W. Bush will sign this,’ but he didn’t,” said a former official. CIA officials then believed, “‘Obama will sign it.’ Then he didn’t.”

“Then Trump came in, and CIA thought he wouldn’t sign,” recalled this official. “But he did.”

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Gina Tyler

Gina Tyler is a California-based healer and classical homeopath (a “DHom”, as if that should lend her some authority on matters related to reality). Now, many proponents of alternative medicine view their quackery as complementary – indeed, it’s a serious marketing ploy: add my bullshit to your reality-based medicine, it can’t hurt, and might even lead you to believe that my bullshit had any causative effect on your improvement. Tyler’s strategy is refreshingly different: her recommendations are intended as “an alternative to toxic prescription drugs used by allopathic medical doctors”. You see, as Tyler sees it, scientific evidence is really a tool of oppression used by Big Pharma to suppress people like here, who’d rather base her recommendations (explicitly) on anecdotes, intuition and incoherent, pseudo-metaphysical speculations; she does recommend, though, that those who have a genuine problem seek out a “professional homeopath” so that they and not she can be saddled with the responsibility for neglect and malpractice concerns when their bullshit fails to address and rather worsen any actual, real condition people may suffer from.

As Tyler sees it, causes of health problems include “stress, trauma (emotional as well as physical trauma), chemical toxins, suppressive allopathic medications and the over-use of pain-pills and other factors,” and the “problems can all be addressed by the use of herbs, homeopathy and a drastic change of eating/drinking habits.” As for real medicine, “excessive use of allopathic medication can cause major imbalances sometimes thought as a secondary illness” (one may or may not have liked to hear her explain how those “imbalances” are identified and measured – she consistently refers to “imbalances” when talking about medical conditions), which doctors will then go on to treat with more medications, and off you go: Real, science-based medicine is just a scam. Tyler’s recommendations, on the other hand, are all gloriously free from the oppressive constraints of evidence and accountability. Curiously, she refers to science-based medicine as “western” medicine, as if homeopathy was somehow less, well, German. She also alludes to the old, ridiculously nonsensical gambit, beloved by quacks everywhere, that real medicine only addresses the symptoms and not the underlying cause of an illness. And as opposed to real medical doctors in the clutches of Big Pharma, Tyler solemnly declares that she is free from conflicts of interest: “I do not advocate a particular product or product company. I have nothing to gain by your use of a certain brand of herb or homeopathic remedy.” Her consultation fees are $410 for chronic problems and $130 for a brief, acute consultation (without assuming responsibility and accountability for any consequences, of course).

We haven’t bothered (because the link on her webpage doesn’t take us to those writings but instead to another homeopathy webpage) to check out her writings on “miasms” – ostensibly “the roots of disease” in classical homeopathy, but really an escape hatch Hahnemann invented to explain why his remedies didn’t work; anyone entertaining the notion that medicine has made some progress since the 1300s might anyways see some red flags at the mention of “miasma”. Tyler is, of course, also hardcore antivaccine (what did you expect?), and has apparently written about how homeopathy can help treat “vaccinosis”. Apparently she also does reflexology and aromatherapy, since once you have embraced the silliest nonsense out there (homeopathy) there is little reason not to embrace the rest as well – practice drift is a well known feature of quackery.

Diagnosis: Dangerous bullshit. And no: although most of the claims are so silly they could be great fun, Tyler is a genuine threat to the health and well-being of genuine people in difficult situations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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