TBR News June 14, 2016

Jun 14 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 14, 2016:’We are out of the office until June 15.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Wednesday, 25 October 1950

Some problems about this country selling half a million tons of high-grade oil to communist China. Money, after all, is important to keep business going and I remind myself that this country dealt with Germany throughout the entire war.

General Clark feels that in spite of our successes in Korea, the military still needs to be built up further. We have invaded North Korea and are heading for their border with China. Now we will see what happens. I must get Philby to tell me what he knows about Chinese intentions. If they will do nothing or if MacArthur stops at the border, I will modify my stock portfolio. If an enlarged war looks to be possible, I will consider a rapid expansion.

Wednesday, 1 November 1950

Attempt on the President! I was in my office today, suffering from the terrible, humid heat, the hottest November 1st on record, wishing I had stayed in Virginia. I had a report to finish and a talk I had to give at three at the Pentagon on the organization of Soviet foreign intelligence.

About two-thirty, just as I was getting ready to go down to my car, someone ran by the office saying that Truman had been shot! Such consternation evident. No one here appeared to be sorry but no one knew what had happened either.

My car did not come because the car pool was not sending anything out, so I had to sit in the building and sweat while the phones were ringing and harried people were running up and down the halls.

It turns out that a gang of Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to storm Blair House where Truman was staying while the White House is being worked on.

At least one of the guards was shot but Truman was safe. The guards got him out the back door as quickly as possible. The irony of this is that Truman was very decent with the Puerto Ricans but that means nothing to fanatics. At least one of the assassins was killed and another captured.

From the unfeigned glee at the CIA, one would have thought that Pash was behind it but we know better now.

Great turmoil that was slow in spreading but quite disruptive. As there was no way I could get to the Pentagon to give my talk, I simply called up my own car and went home. It took me some time to get over the bridge but I showed my special passes and finally got through.

Bunny had heard about the attempt on the radio and was quite upset about it. Of course she knew I was safe because I called her on one of our special lines, but women are always concerned for their husbands…. if they love them.

It is not as hot down here and we ate dinner in the summer dining room with the windows open and a breeze blowing through from the front of the house.

Because of the horses, we have to keep the screens up. The flies are quite voracious and very large.

I will have to call the President tomorrow or possibly send him a note congratulating him on his escape. Perhaps flowers for the wounded would be a good idea as well.

The President showed great courage throughout and actually went over to Arlington to make a scheduled speech later in the afternoon. Of course, he had outriders to clear the way through the traffic.

Viktor called me after dinner and asked me what I knew and I told him that it was only Puerto Ricans, two assassins, one of whom was dead at the scene. He seemed relieved stating that he was happy it wasn’t some anti-Korean War fanatic although he said that Stalin certainly hated Truman who had consistently thwarted his plans everywhere in the world, Turkey, Greece, Italy and now in Asia.

We will discuss this later because Viktor likes it here and if it weren’t for his family, would probably defect. The trick would be to get his family safe. They don’t suspect him in Moscow, as far as we both know, but how could a “Canadian” businessman explain an obviously Russian wife and two obviously Russian children?

If he defected, they would certainly be killed. Stalin has no problem having even small children liquidated. I will give this matter some thought. Perhaps the wife could visit a friend in the eastern zone of Berlin, or go to Leningrad and get into Finland.

The CIA would help if I let them but they are grossly incompetent and would no doubt get her killed. I think we could get them out through the Baltic area. This is garrisoned by Soviet troops and along the seacoast are many areas to leave from. I can talk to Willi (Krichbaum, ed.) about this. He knows to keep his mouth shut when he has to.

In my last note from him, he called Gehlen the Poison Dwarf.

They have been arresting so many aliens recently that there has been quite an uproar. This is mostly concerned with people coming into the United States.

These morons do not realize the ease with which Soviet agents can get into this country. They mostly come in through Canada, sometimes just walking across the bridge up at Detroit. No one pays any attention to a well-dressed businessman or a neatly dressed tourist with an expensive camera and an ugly Hawaiian shirt. Truman likes these and they would frighten a horse.

No, they like to catch people with thick accents and strange names trying, quite legally, to enter the country by boat, mostly in New York. It reminds me of what I know about England in 1939. Germans who had lived in England for twenty years were arrested and thrown into terrible jails, some staying there until the end of the war.

Of course, the Americans did that with the Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor and Hoover told me that there was not one proven case of espionage on the part of any Japanese-American during the entire war!

It’s fortunate they didn’t kill them. We can thank our good friend and fellow assassin Pash for that nonsense.



Thousands rally against labor law in Paris under heavy security

June 14, 2016

by Brian Love


PARIS-Tens of thousands of people rallied in Paris under heavy police presence on Tuesday for a protest against a planned change of labor laws that would make hiring and firing easier.

The Eiffel Tower closed for the day as staff stopped work to join the protest, making it impossible to ensure safe running of France’s biggest tourist attraction, the operating company said.

After violent clashes between riot police and masked youths during previous demonstrations, 130 would-be troublemakers were banned from central Paris to limit the risk of more skirmishes, according to Paris Police Prefect Michel Cadot.

The CGT labor union said the Paris march would be the biggest show of strength since protests over the planned labor reform began in early March.

“This is not the end,” CGT leader Philippe Martinez said. “The struggle is far from over.”

The CGT, backed by smaller unions in a campaign of strikes and protests, is sparring for pole position with another big union that backs the reform that would also devolve setting of pay and working conditions more extensively to company level.

About 700 buses ferried protesters to the capital from all over France for the march, he said. Smaller protests were being staged in other cities.

Police planning was based on the possibility that more than 50,000 – twice previous levels – would take part, Cadot told a pre-rally news conference.

The risk of more trouble from masked and hooded rioters could not be ruled out, he said.

In tandem, workers stopped work at the state-owned SNCF rail company, which nevertheless said disruption was far less than at the outset of a rolling strike two weeks ago or on previous occasions this year.

Ninety percent of high-speed connections were operating and other services were working at about 70 percent, the SNCF said.

Taxi drivers who are waging a campaign against unregulated competitors protested too, in a demonstration that snarled up traffic on the western edge of the capital.

The CGT union and smaller Force Ouvriere union argue that the reform will undermine standards of labor protection.

The government, and the large CFDT union argue the contrary, saying it will help tackle a jobless rate of 10 percent and also develop labor representation at grassroots level. Youth unemployment is about 24 percent.

“It’s time to calm things down a bit,” the head of the pro-reform CFDT union, Laurent Berger, said.

Union membership in France is among the lowest in Europe at less than 10 percent of the workforce. Unions however wield considerable influence because the labor conditions they negotiate are applied to everyone working in any given sector.

Hollande’s Socialist government has refused to withdraw the reform. It forced it through the lower house of parliament by decree last month and aims to make it law by July.

Opinion polls have suggested as many as 80 percent of voters are unhappy with it but they also suggest the protest movement no longer enjoys the backing of a majority of the French people.

Tuesday’s march comes at a time when police are struggling to ensure security during the month-long Euro soccer tournament, with France on maximum terror alert since Islamist militants killed 130 people in November.

(Reporting by Brian Love; Editing by Louise Ireland and Angus MacSwan)


Wikileaks will publish ‘enough evidence’ to indict Hillary Clinton, warns Assange

June 13, 2016


Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange warns more information will be published about Hillary Clinton, enough to indict her if the US government is courageous enough to do so, in what he predicts will be “a very big year” for the whistleblowing website.

Expressing concerns in an ITV interview about the Democratic presidential candidate, who he claims is monitoring him, Assange described Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump as an “unpredictable phenomenon”, but predictably, given their divergent political views, didn’t say if he preferred the billionaire to be president.

He was not asked if he supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein, even though she said she would immediately pardon Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning if elected.

“We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,” Assange told Peston on Sunday when asked if more of her leaked electronic communications would be published.

About 32,000 emails from her private server have been leaked by Wikileaks so far, but Assange would not confirm the number of emails or when they are expected to be published.

Speaking via video link from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange said that there was enough information in the emails to indict Clinton, but that was unlikely to happen under the current Attorney General, Obama appointee Loretta Lynch.

He does think “the FBI can push for concessions from the new Clinton government in exchange for its lack of indictment.”

Clinton has been acting like the presumptive Democratic nominee even though votes are still being counted in California after the June 7 primary, Sanders flipped three counties in his favor, and nine superdelegates have dropped the former New York senator.

The former secretary of state pushed for the prosecution of Wikileaks, rather than the global criminals they exposed, and the organization described her as a “war hawk.”

Assange said the leaked emails revealed that she overrode the Pentagon’s reluctance to overthrow sovereign Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and that “they predicted the post-war outcome would be what it is, which is ISIS taking over the country.”

The email scandal could become a headache as the race to the White House heats up and the FBI continues to investigate her.

Sworn testimony from officials working in the department revealed that Clinton did not “know how to use a computer to do e-mail,” instead using her Blackberry for official communications.

Clinton’s office was a designated Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), where the use of wireless devices was not permitted, leading to Clinton leaving her office in order to access emails.

Sensitive information regarding US security was sent to her private server, including information on drone strikes.

Clinton’s use of a private email account came to light in 2013, when a hacker going by the name of Guccifer accessed the email account of her aide Sidney Blumenthal.


How did one of the most prolific paedophiles in history get away with his crimes?

For more than 40 years, William James Vahey drugged and abused hundreds of pupils at international schools around the world. A Guardian investigation reveals that, despite numerous opportunities to stop him, nothing was done

June 14, 2016

by Robert Booth

The Guardian

On 21 March 2014, a 64-year-old teacher named William James Vahey checked into a cheap hotel in the tiny Minnesota town of Luverne. Vahey had spent the previous four decades teaching at international schools, from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, but he had decided to spend his final moments near his elderly mother and his brother, Chris, who both lived in Luverne.

The reservation was a decoy. At 5.20pm, Vahey crossed the road and checked in at a second hotel, a Quality Inn. He paid in cash for his room, telling the receptionist he didn’t have a credit card because he had just filed for bankruptcy. Upstairs in room 201, he undressed to his boxer shorts, folded his clothes neatly on to the coffee table and lowered himself into the bath tub, tucking a pillow behind his back.

A thousand miles south, special agents at the FBI office in Houston were waiting for a search warrant that would allow them to open a 16 gigabyte flashdrive that had recently arrived from the US embassy in Nicaragua. For the previous seven months, Vahey had been teaching history at the American Nicaraguan School, one of 193 schools around the world supported by the US government to promote US-style education. On 11 March, his housekeeper had shown up at the school gates, and handed the flashdrive in. It was part of a haul of computer kit that she had allegedly stolen from Vahey’s villa a few months earlier.

It later transpired that the drive contained photographs of at least 90 unconscious adolescent boys, naked and partially dressed. The images of abuse, which dated from 2008 to 2013, were neatly arranged into digital folders with titles such as “Panama Trip”, “Costa Rica Trip” and “Basketball Trip”. Vahey had led these field excursions while teaching at two other private international schools in Caracas and London.

The head of the American Nicaraguan School, Dr Gloria Doll, immediately confronted Vahey with the cache of images. He confessed that he had spent a lifetime drugging his pupils and abusing them. “I was molested as a boy, that is why I do this,” he told Doll, according to an FBI affidavit. “I have been doing this my whole life.” The full scale of his crimes would only emerge in the coming months: four decades of abuse at 10 international schools in eight countries from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, and from Venezuela to the UK. The FBI declared him one of the most prolific paedophiles it has ever seen. It seemed inexplicable that nothing had been done to stop him.

Now a five-month investigation by this newspaper has revealed that red flags were, in fact, repeatedly raised about Vahey. Colleagues, parents and superiors all came across evidence that, if properly explored, would have pointed towards him drugging and abusing children. Yet almost nothing was done to stop him. More than two years since Vahey was first exposed, teachers and administrators who worked with him are only now opening up about what they knew.

Vahey was not arrested after his confession in Nicaragua. Instead, Doll fired him and reported the crime to the US authorities, via the embassy in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. The next day, Vahey boarded American Airlines flight 344 to Miami. The FBI had an agent ready to speak to him when he transferred through Miami to Atlanta – but again Vahey was not detained. It was not yet clear whether the material on the flashdrive had been created by Vahey or simply obtained from the internet. “There was no arrest warrant or search warrant for his residence because these cases take a while,” FBI special agent Carlos Barrón told a reporter from Univision, a Spanish-language TV station based in the US.

From Atlanta, Vahey could have gone to the family beach house at Hilton Head Island, a picturesque stretch of Atlantic coastline in South Carolina. Vahey shared the house with his wife Jean, with whom he had two children, and who was at that time working in London as the head of the European Council of International Schools. Instead, he headed north to Minnesota, where his mother was staying in a nursing home.

The morning after Vahey had checked in, the front-desk manager at the Quality Inn could get no response from Vahey’s room. He went to the door and opened it with a master key. Vahey lay dead in the bath, stiff from rigor mortis, his torso smeared with blood. On the floor lay an eight-inch kitchen knife. Bottles of medicine were scattered across the room, along with a suicide note to his family.

The Rock County deputy coroner, Dr Richard Morgan, recorded that there was no sign of struggle. Morgan pushed his finger easily into a deep wound in Vahey’s chest and concluded: “cause of death: self-inflicted knife wound to the chest”. Vahey’s short torment since being exposed was over. That of his victims, their families, his colleagues and superiors around the globe, was about to begin.

The Southbank International school in central London is located a few doors down from the Chinese embassy on Portland Place. The school, which has about 350 students, aged 11 to 18, caters to the children of the rich and the super-rich. When Vahey arrived there as a teacher in September 2009, parents included a billionaire hedge fund manager, Russian oil executives, a top football manager and diplomats at the US, Kuwaiti and Oman embassies. “If you were a lawyer, you were among the poorest,” one parent told me. “Southbank gave you a different understanding of wealth.” Pupils would pay for their £5 canteen lunches with £50 notes. The goody bags given out at one birthday party contained new iPods.

Southbank is owned by Cognita, a private company that owns a further 67 schools across Europe, Latin America and south-east Asia. But it remains part of a much larger global community of international schools, defined by internationally recognised curriculums, taught in English, to cosmopolitan student bodies. It was a familiar world for Vahey, the son of a US air force pilot, who as a child attended international schools and US Defense Department schools in England and Japan.

Vahey taught at Southbank until 2013, and was so admired by parents that they voted him the second-most-popular teacher in a school survey. In fact, Vahey had abused at least 54 of their children, aged 11 to 16, on long-distance school trips. When Vahey’s death was announced, news of his crimes had not become public. (At the time, the school said Vahey had died of a heart attack.) In London, staff cried and opened a condolences book. In Jakarta, where Vahey had taught for a decade, the headmaster Tim Carr urged staff to remember a “vivacious community member”.

Three weeks later, on 22 April 2014, the FBI made a shocking announcement. They were launching an “international sex crimes investigation” into Vahey’s 42-year teaching career in Nicaragua, the UK, Venezuela, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Iran, Spain and Lebanon. “I have never seen another case where an individual may have molested this many children over such a long period of time,” special agent Patrick Fransen told the media.

The news swept through the international school network and was broadcast on TV channels across the world. “I was in bed and my son came running into my room with a laptop with Vahey’s face on it,” one Southbank parent told me. “He was shouting, ‘I knew he was a paedo, but nobody believed me.’” Parents dropping off children at Southbank the next morning were bewildered. “Every teenage kid who went on those trips is asking: ‘Was it me?’” said one mother.

In a letter inviting parents to an emergency meeting, the school’s executive principal, Graham Lacey, wrote that when he heard about the FBI investigation, he “felt, as some of you will be feeling now, physically sick”. The evidence suggested that Vahey had abused hundreds of children across the world.

Vahey claimed he “never hurt any of the boys”, according to an FBI affadavit. “They did not know what had happened to them,” he said. “They were completely asleep.” That was not entirely true – in the morning, some woke with suspicions about what had happened to them. But it is true that the majority of Vahey’s victims did not know they had been attacked. Parents now found themselves wrestling with an awful dilemma: would finding out if their child was in Vahey’s photo files trigger trauma where there was none before?

At Southbank International, mourning turned to rage. Pupils trashed Vahey’s classroom, ripping posters off the walls, tipping the chairs upside down and smashing CDs, a source said. Meanwhile, former colleagues around the world frantically asked themselves if they had done enough to act on clues that Vahey was abusing the children in their care.

Wherever Vahey taught, he immediately marked out his territory. He could be prickly and bullying with colleagues, clashing over how the curriculum should be taught and refusing to budge over timetable disputes. Some colleagues found him vain and preening, and his teaching mediocre. Many simply learned to stay out of his way.

But Vahey fostered a sense of fun, mainly with the boys. “He built a culture that in this classroom we do things differently and we will keep that in the classroom – wink, wink,” said a colleague at Southbank. “He would say to the kids, ‘The other teachers may think you’re difficult but I think you’re wonderful.’”

Vahey would always take care to charm superiors and parents. In Venezuela, he won a reputation as a generous and trustworthy figure, running Saturday-morning basketball sessions for parents, staff and children. In Indonesia, he would worship at parents’ churches, in what former colleagues now believe was an attempt to ingratiate himself with them. When chatting, he would often drop in little references to his wife’s prominent role on the international school circuit.

With his status established, Vahey would set up a travel club, if one did not exist already. Even if there were 36 children to care for on a given trip, he would persuade superiors that he needed only one other teacher to come with him. He told anyone who objected that he would have the help of local guides, too. He would choose the teacher who would assist him, holding out the prospect of another trip if they behaved to his satisfaction.

As the trip approached, Vahey would take charge of accommodation, working out exactly where everyone would sleep. He would take all the room keys, then in the evening he would drug the boys he wanted to abuse. When his targets became sleepy or “felt ill”, Vahey would put it down to food poisoning or dehydration and either take them to his room or offer to look after them in their own bed. According to an official review of his activities in London by UK child protection experts, Vahey would target the most vulnerable – children with learning difficulties, language difficulties or family problems.

One colleague who had accompanied him on a trip told me that Vahey had a personal camera he insisted others on the trip should not touch, no doubt to photograph the children as he molested them. To ensure he was not caught, Vahey sometimes drugged his fellow teachers too. “Bill came to my tent with a camping mug,” recalled one teacher who accompanied Vahey on a hiking trip with 30 children. “I took a mouthful and immediately knew there was something in it. Bill insisted that I drink the whole mug saying the guides needed the mugs for dinner. I drank the whole thing and then I don’t recall until waking up the next morning. I am assuming I was drugged to get me out of the picture.”

Incredibly, as Vahey moved from school to school during his four-decade career, it never came to light that he was already a convicted paedophile. In 1969, while working as a teacher’s aide in Long Beach, California, he had been charged with “lewd and lascivious behaviour” for fondling the penises of boys as young as seven while teaching them to swim.

He pleaded guilty, told his probation officer he was “repelled and humiliated” by his actions and admitted he had started touching boys when he was 14. The officer predicted that the plans of this “mentally disordered sex offender” for a career in education had “probably been shattered by his conviction”. Far from it.

In 1970, aged 20, Vahey walked free from a California jail after serving a 90-day sentence for child molestation. He was placed on the sex offenders register, which required him to tell authorities when he changed address. However, it seems that he did not do so, and the authorities failed to keep tabs on him. (According to the Canadian newspaper, the National Post, when the California state register was put online in 2004, Vahey’s name wasn’t included because he was no longer living in the state.)

He took a BA in political science from California State University and in 1972, after two years of probation, he travelled to Iran to teach at the American School in Tehran, followed by short stints at US schools in Beirut, Madrid and Athens. In 1980, he moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to teach the children of US workers at the giant oil company Saudi Aramco. By now, Vahey was married to Jean, and in 1981 the couple had a son, who was joined by a brother, two years later.

In 1992, the Vaheys moved to Jakarta International School (JIS) in Indonesia, which is overseen, in part, by the embassies of Australia, the United Kingdom and US. Within three years, Jean had been promoted to deputy head and Vahey was teaching world history to students in middle school.

After a while, his affinity with the boys he was teaching began to seem odd to a number of colleagues. Senior teachers at JIS have told the Guardian they received multiple suspicious reports: Vahey sleeping with boys in tents on hiking trips; taking boys who had fallen ill on excursion into his room overnight; his demands to lead an all-boy group on an outward-bound adventure.

In May 1996, Vahey took charge of a trip for around 90 pupils aged around 14: five days of hiking, rock climbing, rafting, near the Jatiluhur dam in a tropical region 70km east of Jakarta. When they arrived, Vahey divided the pupils into groups of around a dozen girls and boys. Vahey insisted on sleeping in the same tent as his group, even though teachers were provided with their own tents.

After the trip had finished, a teacher who had overheard boys talking about it being “weird” having to share a tent with Vahey, said he reported his concerns to Bruce Leiper, the middle school principal, and his vice principal, Geoff Smith. Doing so was not an easy decision. “Jean Vahey held a senior position not only in the JIS community but also the international school circuit,” the teacher said. “I was concerned my actions might impact my employment and promotional opportunities in the future.”

Contacted by the Guardian, Leiper and Smith said they did not recall anyone raising the issue of Vahey sharing tents with students on that trip. However, Leiper did say that at some point around 1998 he had confronted Vahey after it had emerged that two boys had fallen ill on a school trip and that Vahey had them spend the night in his room, in Leiper’s words, “to recover”. “We had a long conversation with him and I made it clear that under no circumstances was this to happen again and that it was dangerous,” Leiper said. “We had no suspicion that Bill was up to anything, but knew this could be a problem.”

During their time in Indonesia, the Vaheys lived at Countrywoods, an expat gated community in south Jakarta with open grounds for their two boys to play. The Vaheys regularly invited their sons’ friends to sleepovers at their home, which had a pool table, the best video games and the latest movies. Vahey used these sleepovers as an opportunity to target young boys.

One of the adolescent guests, whom we will call John, has agreed to speak out for the first time about what happened. He is now an adult. One night, when he was about 14, he and several friends settled down to watch a movie in Vahey’s lounge, but found themselves suddenly feeling sleepy and nodding off. John was the first to wake the next day and remembered feeling dazed. Looking around the room he noticed he was wearing a different pair of shorts, while his friend was wearing his shorts. Then his friend realised his underwear was missing too.

“Over the next couple of months, we pieced together unusual incidents on prior sleepovers,” said John. “We strongly suspected Bill was drugging us.” At bedtime, Vahey would hand out Oreo cookies and glasses of water and propose an eating race to see who would get first choice of the mattresses laid out on the floor. Vahey would even inspect the boys’ mouths to make sure they had swallowed everything.

Despite their suspicions, John said that the boys did not feel confident about making accusations against Vahey. The community was close-knit and they could not easily avoid going to the house for sleepovers.

Then, one night a few months later, the Vaheys were looking after John when his parents had to go away for a weekend. “Bill pulled me aside into the kitchen, handed me a cookie and said maybe you and I could have an Oreo eating competition,” John said. “I felt helpless because I knew what he was doing but my parents were out of town and uncontactable. I was also facing up to an adult who was supposed to be taking care of me. In panic, I ate the Oreo. I could taste bitter stuff in the back of my teeth. I couldn’t leave his house, because I don’t know how that would have gone down. I went into the bathroom and found crushed up blue pill in my molars. I picked out what was left but I had swallowed most of it. Within 10 minutes I was out cold and only woke up the next day.”

When John’s parents flew home, he told them what had happened, and about the previous times. “We didn’t ever doubt that he was telling the truth but it took us time to process it and decide what we thought would be the best course of action,” John’s mother said by phone. “My husband and I wanted to go over to Bill’s house and beat the shit out of him, but we chose not to. Ultimately I made the decision to speak to the head of school and the middle school principal.”

John’s mother recalled that in the meeting, the headmaster, Niall Nelson, “seemed sceptical” about the incident. She was also worried about pitting her son against Bill, knowing that his wife Jean was the deputy head of the school, and that it would be their word against that of one child. She said that she told Nelson she didn’t want any action taken unless there was another report, in which case she would “happily stand up”.

Geoff Smith, who by this point had been promoted to middle school principal, recalled that it had seemed “a really bizarre story” and admitted that it was hard to believe that Vahey was lacing cookies, especially as there was no physical evidence. He nevertheless felt he “was holding a pretty critical piece of information”.

He said that he met Nelson to discuss what steps to take. “The most concrete thing that we did was ask all chaperones on travel club trips, and specifically Vahey, that if there was anything unusual about kids getting ill on trips or unusual sleeping arrangements, I wanted to know about it,” said Smith. “I was pretty direct about that with him.”

But Nelson, now semi-retired and living in England, denied that John’s mother had told him about the cookie incident. “There was no specific discovery of any drugs or Oreo cookies that was presented to me,” said Nelson in emails. “The parent who spoke to me indicated that their son had awoken feeling drowsy and with his clothes in disarray. She said she was not voicing a formal complaint and did not wish to make allegations, to involve their son, or to pursue the matter further.”

Without hard evidence, he felt there was nothing more he could do. He also said that Smith had said nothing to him about drugs or cookies and that he received no other reports of suspicious behaviour by Vahey. Smith’s strengthening of field trip arrangements was “part of a review process and not in response to any concerns I was made aware of”.

Nelson, who now provides occasional consulting to a firm advising international schools, said he was “deeply dismayed and angry at the harm and pain it is now clear Bill Vahey caused to so many boys and their families”.

It is nothing compared to Vahey’s victims, but many of his former colleagues, including Smith, have felt considerable personal anguish about the case. “I feel that on some level I and others failed,” Smith said. “We have to figure out how to have those conversations when all we have is a notion, even if we don’t have concrete evidence.” (JIS has had three heads of school since Nelson left. The head since 2010, Tim Carr, said that under his leadership the school has strengthened protocols to “ensure maximum protection of our students”.)

“I feel like a lot of people probably knew and didn’t do a thing about it,” said John. “It wouldn’t have taken much. All they had to do was put in a call to the US embassy. He was a convicted paedophile.” The FBI has since confirmed that had any employer required Vahey to obtain a criminal records check from the US, it would have disclosed that he was a convicted child molester.

There is no evidence to suggest that Jean knew about her husband’s crimes, and the investigation by the Metropolitan police in London concluded her husband was acting alone. She did not respond to a request for an interview for this piece, and the majority of Vahey’s crimes appear to have been committed on school trips where Jean was not present. But teachers, parents and victims wonder whether, without her knowledge, Vahey exploited Jean’s prominence as a leader on the international schools circuit as cover for his crimes.

“People didn’t want to cross her – not just because of her power, but because of her charisma,” said a source at JIS. The official review by child protection experts cited one occasion when, following a critical appraisal, Vahey threatened to use Jean’s influence to put a “concrete ceiling” on his head of department’s career. “You knew who his wife was all of the time,” said Geoff Smith. “Without hard, concrete evidence, it felt like he was bulletproof.”

In 2009, after having served as head of the Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas for seven years, Jean moved to London to become chief executive of the European Council of International Schools. Vahey was keen to join her and wrote to Southbank International School for a job, mentioning Jean’s position. He boasted that his spring break trips provided experiences “far outside a typical family vacation” and of his “special appreciation for the middle school age group”.

The job was not advertised and the interview was carried out alone by the principal, Terry Hedger. Background checks were conducted, but they were inadequate. The Venezuelan authorities confirmed to Southbank International administrators that Vahey had no convictions from the seven years he worked there. But, according to a report by Hugh Davies QC – a lawyer who reviewed Southbank’s recruitment of Vahey for Cognita after his death – the school did not look into other jurisdictions where Vahey had worked. Davies discovered that the only way Southbank International could have obtained Vahey’s US criminal record would have been to get him to ask for it himself. The school did that, but did not follow up when it was not received.

An inquiry by UK child protection experts discovered an “informal approach to recruitment” in the wider international school community and found that few schools of any kind would approach all previous countries where a teacher has worked for criminal records checks. Even today it remains difficult to ascertain whether a new teacher at an international school has a criminal past, as the law enforcement systems of many countries are simply not geared up for such checks.

Not a scintilla of concern about Vahey appeared on the references Southbank received from his previous schools. An administrator at the school in Venezuela, where Jean had been in charge a few months earlier, said: “Bill takes large groups each year on trips and if there had been a problem at any time, it would have surfaced.” The reference given by Nelson, the headmaster of JIS while Vahey was there, declared him “a consummate professional”, a judgment he said was made in good faith.

When Vahey arrived at Southbank International in late summer 2009, the school was undergoing a period of turmoil, as parents grew increasingly unhappy with the way it was being run. Staff were not subject to appraisal, and there were no consequences for those who came in late or missed meetings, one teacher told me. By 2011, a campaign group set up by four parents circulated a letter voicing frustration that the new private owner, the Cognita group, was guilty of “aggressive milking of the school” for profits.

Into this turbulence stepped Vahey, who some staff members thought of as an oddball. “It was like he had a travelling suitcase of lesson plans and his travel group,” said one staff member. “Whatever school he came to, he would not deviate from that.”

Over the next four years, Vahey led 11 trips, including to Nepal and Jordan. After the trips, he would host slideshows for parents, pupils and the headmaster. “We couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” said a parent who attended one of these slideshows. “On the screen were pictures of boys in their trunks, a 15-year-old girl in her bikini. He gave a 13-year old boy a ‘babe magnet award’. It was so uncomfortable.”

We now know that while Vahey was at Southbank, teachers reported his suspicious behaviour on four different trips, either to the school principal, the teacher in charge of child protection or the head of pastoral care. On two trips, teachers reported him for taking ill pupils to his room. On another, he was reported for insisting on being alone with a boy who was ill, and on another he was reported for discussing pornography with pupils. There was “a clear pattern of intrinsically inappropriate conduct” sufficient for Vahey to have been stopped, said Hugh Davies QC in his report to parents.

On one rare occasion when Vahey was disciplined for his behaviour – a parent had objected to an inappropriate comment Vahey had made to students – he complained to Terry Hedger, the principal. The decision by the school to pull him off the next trip had, he said in an email to Hedger, “really impacted my self-concept”. He complained that this decision would “undermine my reputation and standing in the community”.

Hedger reassured him: “Don’t worry, your self-concept should not be affected. The problem is that some vindictive parents have found a way to put unfair pressure on the teachers.” Hedger told investigators: “I am not able to give a justification or explanation to these comments.” He later told the Guardian that if he knew then what he knows now, he “would have done a lot of things differently”.

Southbank International says there has been “a profound culture shift” under new leadership. There are now mandatory criminal record checks for new hires in every country in which they have lived or worked as adults. “Since we became aware of Vahey’s abuse, we have relentlessly worked to strengthen every aspect of safeguarding at Southbank,” a Cognita spokeswoman said.

Scotland Yard detectives eventually established that 53 boys, aged 11 to 16, from Southbank International school appeared unconscious in the digital photo archive that was discovered in Nicaragua. They contacted the families of all the boys who had been on Vahey’s trips and posed an awful question: do you want to know if your child was among the victims?

Parents were told they could meet with a detective and a social worker assigned to their case in their homes, in a police station or in the social workers’ offices. “My husband didn’t think our son should go, on the basis that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and not knowing the severity of what is in the photographs – whether it was full sexual assault, touching or nudity,” one mother told me. “I went on my own and had to decide whether to share what I was told with my husband and son. I had to ask myself, however awful it is, can I live with that?”

Many decided not to find out. “There is such a feeling of wanting to sweep it under the carpet,” a source close to the school community said. “Some want to embrace it openly, while others don’t want to talk about it ever again.”

Finally, in summer 2013, Vahey was headed for retirement. His last posting was to be at the American School in Nicaragua. When he arrived alone in the country in August, Vahey installed himself in a fully furnished three-bedroom villa, seven minutes’ walk from the school.

At first, everything seemed to go smoothly. “The school has me all organised to coach a boys’ basketball team and have me down to go to Mexico City for a conference in October where Jean will be presenting, so they are taking very good care of me,” he said in an email to former colleagues in London. “The temperature here gets up to almost 90 every day and I am loving it!” Vahey was “charming, really popular,” a student later told the local newspaper.

Then, in late November 2013, came the theft of his computer equipment. Suddenly, a mountain of digital evidence detailing his many abuses was out of his hands.

A few days later, when he didn’t Skype with Jean in London as planned, she called the school to check his whereabouts. The next morning, a school representative who went to check on Vahey found him unconscious on his bed at home. There seemed to be no sign of life. At 10.03am, the principal, Gloria Doll, emailed teachers and parents to say “it is with great regret that we inform you that Bill Vahey, our 9th Grade social studies teacher has passed away this weekend … He will be greatly missed, as he was truly an integral part of our community”.

But – according to Confidencial, the local newspaper – as Vahey’s office was filling with flowers and photographs from mourning colleagues, forensic officers at the scene noticed faint signs of life. Vahey was rushed to hospital and began to recover. Doll quickly circulated another note: “This is wonderful and miraculous news. We think this is the most marvellous Thanksgiving Day that we could ever imagine!”

“It is with a sense of awe, wonder and joy that I find myself writing to you,” Vahey told colleagues by email on 2 December. “This last week has been quite the adventure, and I am fortunate to say I am doing much better. At times like this, one can’t help but reflect on life.”

He said he was flying to Atlanta for tests and would be back in January. When Vahey returned, he told people he had been bitten by a venomous spider. It now seems likely he had tried to kill himself. Four months later, in room 201 of the Quality Inn in Luverne, he was finally successful.

In late March 2014, with Vahey dead and the FBI poring over the evidence it had received from Nicaragua, Jean Vahey circulated an invitation to colleagues and friends around the world to attend a “celebration” of her husband’s life at their home in South Carolina. “Bill’s passing has left us all heartbroken,” she wrote. “Yet the love and support we have received from the family, friends and the students he taught, mentored and led on adventures has proven how much of an impact he had in the amazing life he led.”

The news of Vahey’s crimes would not become public for another few weeks. Donations, Jean said, should go to the Children of Haiti project, which teaches and feeds children in one of the world’s poorest countries.

“We fully expect everyone coming to bring their bourbon and diet coke, wild travel story and favourite ‘Vahey joke’,” Jean added. By the Atlantic shore, they would “toast a man that lived a life that made a difference”.

‘The Sun,’ UK’s biggest selling newspaper, endorses Brexit

In an editorial, Britain’s top-selling newspaper has come out in support of the country leaving the EU. The endorsement comes just as a new poll shows the “Leave” camp gaining support.

June 14, 2016


“The Sun” printed the editorial – calling on Britons to vote “Leave” in an upcoming referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU – in its Tuesday edition.

The newspaper, which is owned by conservative media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, also tweeted out a preview.

“We are about to make the biggest political decision of our lives. The Sun today urges everyone to vote LEAVE,” the editorial begins.

The editorial argues that the UK “must set ourselves free from dictatorial Brussels,” and that the country’s future would be “far bleaker” if it remained.

“Recapture our democracy”

“Our country has a glorious history,” the newspaper goes on to say. “This is our chance to make Britain even greater, to recapture our democracy, to preserve the values and culture we are rightly proud of.”

The Sun also accused the “Remain” camp of using scare tactics to convince voters to support the EU.

The editorial comes just as a new poll, conducted by YouGov for The Times newspaper, found that 46 percent of the country supported the idea of leaving the EU, compared 39 percent who was in support of remaining.

Britons will head to the polls on June 23 for the referendum, which is raising fears of a possible break-up of the 28-member bloc.

Orlando Shooter Was Reportedly a Regular at Pulse and Had a Profile on Gay Dating App

June 13, 2016

by Gabrielle Bluestone


Early Sunday morning, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Mateen, his father explained the next day, had repeatedly been angered by the sight of two men kissing. But according to witnesses, Mateen was also a regular at the club and exchanged messages with at least one gay man on a gay dating app.

“It’s the same guy,” Chris Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

Ty Smith, who also goes by the name Aries, also said he’d seen Mateen being escorted drunk from the club, Pulse, on multiple occasions.

“(He’d get) really, really drunk… He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife, or family. His father was really strict… He used to bitch about it,” Smith told the Canadian Press.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Smith also explained to the Orlando Sentinel, which spoke with at least four clubgoers who remembered seeing Mateen at Pulse at least a dozen times. “We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times… He told us he had a wife and child.”

Both Callen and Smith, who are married, tell the Canadian Press they stopped speaking to Mateen after he threatened them with a knife, apparently after someone made a joke about religion.

“He ended up pulling a knife,” Callen said. “He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”

Mateen, who was married in 2009, was abusive and unstable, his ex-wife says. They were married for just a few months before her parents rescued her from their home in Florida, leaving most of her belongings behind. It’s still unclear if he was married again after their divorce was finalized in 2011.

Judge Blocks Seattle From Disclosing FBI Surveillance Info

June 13, 2016

by Gene Johnson


SEATTLE — A federal judge on Monday blocked Seattle from releasing information about surveillance cameras the FBI has placed in the city, after the agency said the disclosure could jeopardize ongoing investigations.U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued the temporary restraining order after the Justice Department sued, seeking to prevent officials from releasing documents about where the FBI has placed hidden surveillance cameras on utility poles. The city had already released some documents, and the Justice Department said it filed the lawsuit to prevent further disclosures.

The city said it had planned to release the information pursuant to public records requests by news reporters and a privacy activist. The state Public Records Act typically exempts “specific intelligence information” from disclosure if its release would compromise effective law enforcement.

Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, said she had no information about why city lawyers deemed the documents public, but that the city would abide by the federal court’s decision on whether they should be released. She knew of six cameras at issue, Mills said.

The Justice Department said that if the locations of the cameras are made public, the information could tip off investigation subjects that they are being monitored. The FBI had provided information about its use of the cameras to the city’s public utility, Seattle City Light, since 2013 under a promise of confidentiality, but only to prevent the cameras from being removed or destroyed by utility workers, the Justice Department said.

The FBI has ceased sharing that information with the utility because of possibility the city will make the information public, the Justice Department wrote.

“The FBI’s use of the pole camera technique is a powerful tool in FBI investigations of criminal violations and national security threats,” the Justice Department’s lawsuit said. “Disclosure of even minor details about them may cause jeopardy to important federal interests because, much like a jigsaw puzzle, each detail may aid adversaries in piecing together information about the capabilities, limitations, and circumstances of (the) equipment’s use, and would allow law enforcement subjects, or national security adversaries, to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the FBI’s use of this technology, in order to evade effective, lawful investigation by the FBI.”

Seattle is a liberal bastion with a long history of concerns about government surveillance. A city law passed in the 1970s barred police from collecting information about people based on their political views or exercise of constitutional rights.

In 2013, after the Seattle Police Department prompted an outcry by acquiring two drones, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring any city department intending to acquire surveillance equipment to get council approval first. The police department returned its two drones to the company that sold them.

But even that law has an exception that allows agencies to temporarily acquire or use surveillance equipment for a criminal investigation supported by reasonable suspicion, with a search warrant or under emergency circumstances.

Phil Mocek, a privacy activist who filed records requests for information about the pole cameras, said he was concerned that Seattle City Light may have attempted to sidestep that law. Emails he received earlier suggested that Seattle police and other local and federal agencies were aware that City Light was cooperating with federal agencies, he said.

“It appears a security manager at Seattle City Light has been running a rogue surveillance camera scheme, allowing federal agencies to install surveillance cameras and personally maintaining an inventory of those cameras,” Mocek said. “If that’s what’s happening, the public should know about it.”

A spokesman for City Light directed questions to the City Attorney’s Office.

In issuing the restraining order Monday, the judge said the Justice Department had shown a strong likelihood of winning its case. The release of the documents appeared to be prohibited by the state’s Public Records Act, the FBI’s confidentiality agreement with the city and federal law enforcement privileges.

It’s Time to Prune America’s Overgrown Alliance Network

June 10, 2016

by Ted Galen Carpenter

National Interest

Since the end of World War II, U.S. officials have spurned George Washington’s advice that the republic should avoid permanent alliances. To wage the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the United States forged alliances with various nations around the world. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be Washington’s first such venture outside its traditional sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere, but it was far from the last. Key bilateral military alliances with such countries as Japan, South Korea, and Nationalist China followed. So did U.S. efforts to create pale imitators of NATO in other regions, including the ill-fated SEATO in Southeast Asia.

One might have thought that the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union would have marked an end to such pactomania. But that assumption would have been wrong. Indeed, the United States exploited the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet empire to add a plethora of formal allies in Central and Eastern Europe. During those same years, Washington’s involvement in the toxic rivalries of the Middle East deepened, and so did relations with a variety of allies and client states in that region.

Because of the vast number of security obligations the United States has undertaken over the decades, the system now resembles an overgrown garden in desperate need of pruning. Formal and informal security commitments now make the United States responsible for the security of more than sixty percent of the planet. One doesn’t have to be an alarmist to believe that such a burden is the operational definition of strategic overextension.

The United States is a very powerful actor. Not only does it have a nuclear arsenal with several thousand weapons and extremely sophisticated delivery systems, it has a conventional military force without equal. And it is still the world’s largest economy, by a considerable margin. In the global arena of power, the United States is still the primary player.

But it is a player showing ever greater signs of strain. A $19 trillion national debt is not a trivial matter, even for a superpower. And for all its vaunted military capabilities, Washington has been unable to impose its will without great difficulty and frustration—and sometimes not even then—in places ranging from Vietnam to the Balkans to Iraq to Afghanistan.

The United States needs a more selective, discriminating security strategy. And a good place to start is with alliance commitments. America’s system of vast, overgrown, and in many instances, obsolete alliances fairly cries out for a vigorous pruning.

A key task is deciding what to prune, and in what order. There are three reasonable ways of setting the necessary priorities. One would be to prune the most frivolous, useless allies first. A second way would be to give top priority to eliminating the most potentially dangerous allies—the commitments that could easily drag the United States into an unnecessary war. A third option would be to jettison the most odious allies—those whose domestic and international behavior greatly offend American values and basic standards of human decency.

Embracing the first option would lead U.S. officials to focus on getting rid of a good many small NATO members, such as Montenegro and Slovenia. One might ask what such ministates could possibly add to the economic and military might of the United States. The answer is virtually nothing. Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow summarized Montenegro’s contribution succinctly. “Podgorica is a military nullity.” Indeed, America has gotten into the bad habit of acquiring such weak, useless allies with all the casualness that some people add Facebook friends. But security commitments are a serious business, and we should view them as such.

Montenegro and Slovenia are merely useless, not dangerous, since they are not likely to become embroiled in armed conflicts with neighbors. Using the second standard—eliminating especially risky security dependents—arguably has greater merit. Allies such as Taiwan and South Korea fall into this category. They have major unresolved conflicts with neighbors, and their quarrels could escalate to the point of dragging the United States into armed conflicts that had little or no relevance to America’s own vital interests. U.S. policymakers (including Congress, the institution that has largely abdicated its responsibilities regarding war and peace,) need to consider whether they really would be willing to take the republic into war to defend such allies against powerful adversaries.

Of course, it is possible for an ally to qualify for pruning in both category one and category two. The Baltic republics come to mind. They are small states of no special economic or strategic importance to the United States. Indeed, they have been in and out of the Russian empire (and its successor, the Soviet Union) over the centuries. Their current relationship with Moscow is frosty at best. Yet the United States has chosen to give such small, vulnerable allies a security guarantee through NATO, and has sent its own forces on a “rotational basis” to emphasize that commitment. The Baltic republics should be high on the list in both categories one and two for a needed pruning of security obligations.

A final option would be to start with eliminating military commitments to especially odious allies. Serial abusers of human rights, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, ought to be obvious candidates. And in the case of Saudi Arabia, the government’s foreign policy behavior has undermined genuine American interests at least as often as it has supported them.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt should be the easy cases when applying this standard. More difficult cases but ones still deserving ample consideration are relationships with such countries as Turkey, Hungary, and Israel. The authoritarian trends in the first two states have reached alarming levels, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians over the decades deserves censure.

Ideally, a pruning exercise would lead to a fundamental reconsideration of America’s entire grand strategy. It has gone largely unexamined since the early years of the Cold War. U.S. strategy now seems to be on autopilot and some ugly mountain peaks are looming ahead. Our intellectually bankrupt political and foreign policy establishments may be oblivious to the danger, but critics need to focus attention on the pertinent issues. Pruning Washington’s haphazard, overgrown alliances is a good place to begin.

Astronomers discover Star Wars-like planet boasting two suns

But don’t plan on seeing a double sunset anytime soon – astronomers say the new planet is 3,700 light years from Earth. But the planet appears to be in a Goldilocks zone that could potentially support life.

June 14, 2016


Astronomers have discovered the largest planet yet known that orbits two suns.

In addition, they say the planet appears to be in a Goldilocks zone – not too hot and not too cold, but just right – that could potentially have water, which is crucial for life as we know it.

A planet circling two suns is known as a circumbinary planet, and this one is farther from its stars than the handful of other known circumbinary planets. These planets are also nicknamed “Tatooine” after the fictional body in the “Star Wars” films that boasts a double sunset.

The first so-called Tatooine planet was discovered in 2011 when astronomers discovered a world about the size of Saturn 200 light-years from Earth.

The newly discovered planet, dubbed Kepler-1647, is about the size of Jupiter, but its large size makes it a poor candidate to support life. Worse, it’s a gaseous orb, thus rendering it uninhabitable. But professional star-gazers say one of its moons could be potentially habitable.

The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009 to search for potentially habitable planets outside our solar system.

The hidden planet

Given its large size, scientists expressed surprise it wasn’t found sooner.

“It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm since it is easier to find big planets than small ones,” San Diego State astronomer Jerome Orosz said in a statement.

The discovery was announced Monday, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.

But aspiring space travelers should be prepared for a very, very, long trip. Situated near the Cygnus constellation, the planet lies some 3,700 light-years away from the Earth. A light-year is about 6 billion miles, or 9.5 billion kilometers.

Astronomers at NASA and San Diego State University discovered the large planet. They say its wide orbit around the two suns takes 1,107 days – a little more than three years – to complete.

Scientists say that at 4.4 billion years old, the planet is about the same age as the Earth. Likewise, they say its two stars are similar to the Earth’s sun, with one slightly larger and the other slightly smaller.

Astronomers can detect planets outside the solar system – known as exoplanets – when they pass in front of their stars, causing “slight dips in brightness,” according to the researchers.

“But finding circumbinary planets is much harder than finding planets around single stars,” co-author William Welsh, an SDSU astronomer, said. “The transits are not regularly spaced in time and they can vary in duration and even depth.”

Europeans shun militarization & see terrorism, not Russia as biggest threat – Pew poll

June 14, 2016


Europeans are weary of hard power and are reluctant to boost defense spending despite the commitment to do so by their governments, a Pew poll has shown. Tensions with Russia are seen as a minor threat compared to international terrorism and economic instability.

Deterring an “aggressive Russia” with an increased military presence in Europe is the stated goal of NATO since 2014, but public opinion in Europe doesn’t seem to buy the plan. According to the Pew Research Center’s Spring 2016 Global Attitudes Survey, people in Europe don’t see Russia as a major threat and don’t see hard power as a viable solution not only for tensions with Moscow, but even for international terrorism, a threat they consider the biggest for Europe.

Poland is the only one of the 10 countries surveyed that sees tensions with Russia as a major problem. There, 71 percent of people agreed with the statement, a far greater percentage compared to other nations surveyed. Throughout Europe, 34 percent see Russia as a major threat, the poll has shown.

Interestingly, Poles are divided over whether their government should take a tougher stance on Russia or favor stronger economic ties with it. People in most countries surveyed agreed with the latter option. Sweden was the only country that definitely favors a confrontational approach, with 71 percent approving it compared to 26 percent seeking reconciliation. Germans, Italians, Hungarians and overwhelmingly Greeks want to trade, rather than quarrel with Moscow. The average is 43 percent for reconciliation vs 48 percent for confrontation with Moscow.

The biggest threat Europeans identified is the terrorist group Islamic State, which 76 percent called a major problem. Terrorism is followed by global climate change and global economic instability, which 66 percent and 60 percent of Europeans called major threats, respectively. Almost half of the people polled (49 percent) feel threatened by the large number of refugees arriving in Europe.

The urge to boost military spending is shared by the Poles and the Dutch, where 52 percent and 49 percent of the people want to spend more on defense, respectively. Sweden and the UK are split between putting more money into army coffers and keeping spending at current levels. In all other countries polled, including Germany and France, a majority of people want to keep things as they are. In Spain, one-third of the people want to cut the defense budget.

Europeans are divided over whether military power is being used properly against terrorism. In six of the 10 nations, including European heavyweights the UK, Germany and France, people said the EU relied too much on military force. Just over half of the Poles, Italians and Hungarians said the military solution is the best against terrorism.

A majority of 54 percent of Europeans said their countries should focus on domestic problems, compared to 40 percent who said they should help other countries deal with theirs. Overwhelmingly (74 percent), they support a greater role for the EU in world affairs.

Venezuela lootings, food protests leave three dead in past week

June 13, 2016


A wave of lootings and food riots in crisis-hit Venezuela has left three people dead in the last week, authorities and a rights group said.

The state prosecutor’s office is investigating the deaths of a 21-year-old man in eastern Sucre state on Saturday, another 21-year-old man in the Caracas slum of Petare on Thursday, and a 42-year-old woman in the western state of Tachira last Monday.

All three were shot during chaotic protests and melees outside shops, which have become flashpoints for violence and looting amid scarcities of basics across the South American OPEC member country, according to local rights group Provea.

A policeman has been arrested over the Tachira death.

And a National Guard sergeant major was arrested for the shooting in Sucre, the prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

With basics such as flour and rice running short, crowds chanting “We want food!” are thronging supermarkets daily, presenting a major problem for the struggling leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

More than 10 incidents of looting are occurring daily, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, a local monitoring group.

Venezuela’s political opposition is pursuing a recall referendum in an effort to remove Maduro, a socialist, from office.

Maduro, 53, who won election to succeed Hugo Chavez in 2013, accuses foes of deliberately stirring up trouble and seeking a coup.

(Reporting by Sarah Dagher, Girish Gupta and Diego Ore; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, G Crosse)


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