TBR News June 15, 2017

Jun 15 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 14, 2017:”The polarization of the American public is well underway now. Congressmen shot at by a left wing lunatic, unemployment at record highs, massive and serious swindles in the American mortgage business, perceived instability at the highest levels of government, massive surveillance by the government of its tax-paying citizens, endless debilitating wars, growing acts of terrorist violence that will surely move to North America and other disruptive and damaging body blows to national stability. The rabid media, rather than calming the public, is doing their best to inflame it. In time all of the participants in the game will regret it but by then, it will be too late to do anything about it.”

Table of Contents

  • Liars Lying About Nearly Everything
  • Scalise in critical condition after attack by gunman at baseball field
  • Assassination Is Murder, Even When the CIA Does It
  • Jeff Sessions Can’t Remember Anything
  • Donald Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice: US media
  • Where Have All the Children Gone?
  • Deadly cholera epidemic infecting one child every minute sweeps through Yemen
  • Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?
  • ‘CIA’s Cherry Bomb’: WikiLeaks #Vault7 reveals wireless network targets
  • Are you unable to afford decent housing? Welcome to the club

 Liars Lying About Nearly Everything

Terrorism supporters in Washington and Riyadh close ranks against Qatar

June 13, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz review

The United States has been using lies to go to war since 1846, when Americans who believed in manifest destiny sought to expand to the Pacific Ocean at the expense of Mexico, acquiring by force of arms California and what were to become the southwestern states. In 1898 the U.S. picked up the pieces of a dying Spanish Empire in a war that was driven by American imperialists and the yellow dog reporting of the Hearst Newspaper chain. And then came World War 1, World War 2, and Korea, all avoidable and all enabled by deliberate lying coming out of Washington.

More recently, we have seen Vietnam with its Gulf of Tonkin fabrication, Granada and Panama with palpably ridiculous pretexts for war, Iraq with its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, Afghanistan with its lies about bin Laden, Libya and its false claims about Gaddafi, and most recently Syria and Iran with allegations of an Iranian threat to the United States and lies about Syrian use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons. And if one adds in the warnings to Russia over Ukraine, a conflict generated by Washington when it brought about regime change in Kiev, you have a tissue of lies that span the globe and bring with them never-ending conflict to advance the American imperium.

So lies go with the American Way of War, but the latest twist and turns in the Middle East are bizarre even by Washington’s admittedly low standards of rectitude. On the 5th of June, Saudi Arabia led a gaggle of Arab and Muslim nations that included the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut off all diplomatic, commercial and transport links with Qatar, effectively blockading it. Qatar is currently isolated from its neighbors, subject to sanctions, and there have even been Saudi threats of going to war against its tiny neighbor. Salman al-Ansari, the president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee, even tweeted: “To the emir of Qatar, regarding your alignment with the extremist government of Iran and your abuse of the Custodian of the two sacred mosques, I would like to remind you that Mohammed Morsi [of Egypt] did exactly the same and was then toppled and imprisoned.”

It is the second time the Saudis have moved against Qatar. Two years ago, there was a break in diplomatic relations, but they were eventually restored. This time, the principal allegation being directed against Qatar by Riyadh is that it supports terrorism. The terrorist groups that it allegedly embraces are Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s affiliation. Hezbollah and Hamas are close to Iran which is perhaps the real reason for their being singled out as many would call them resistance movements or even legitimate political parties rather than terrorists. And the Iran connection is critical as Qatar has been under fire for allegedly saying nice things about trying to respect and get along with Tehran, undoubtedly somewhat motivated by its joint exploitation with Iran of a vast gas field in the Persian Gulf.

Qatar’s ownership of al-Jazeera also has been a sore point with the Saudis and other Gulf states as its reporting has often been critical of developments in the region, criticisms that have often rankled the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptians. It has been accused of spreading propaganda for “militant groups.” One of the Saudi demands to permit Qatar to again become a “normal” Arab Gulf state would be to close down the network.

The terrorism claims by the Saudis are, of course, hypocritical. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are well known as sponsors of Salafist terrorism, including the funding and arming of groups like ISIS and the various al-Qaeda franchises, to include al-Nusra. Much of the money admittedly comes from private individuals and is often channeled through Islamic charities, but both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been extremely lax in their enforcement of anti-terror and money laundering regulations. In a 2009 State Department memo signed off on by Hillary Clinton it was stated that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Qatar, meanwhile, has been described as a “permissive environment for terrorist financing.”

The Saudis also have considerable blood on their hands by way of their genocidal assault on neighboring Yemen. In addition, the Saudi Royal House has served as the principal propagator of Wahhabism, the virulently fundamentalist version of Islam that provides a form of religious legitimacy to terror while also motivating many young Muslims to join radical groups.

The falling out of two Gulf Arab regimes might be a matter of relatively little importance but for the unnecessary intervention of President Donald Trump in the quarrel. He has taken credit for the burgeoning conflict, implying that his recent visit to the region set the stage for the ostracizing of Qatar. His twitter on the affair, posted on June 6th, read ““So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” And he again came down on Qatar on June 9th during a press conference.

Trump’s tweets might well be regarded as simply maladroit, driven by ignorance, but they could also provide a glimpse of a broader agenda. While in the Middle East, Trump was bombarded with anti-Iranian propaganda coming from both Israel and the Saudis. An escalation of hostilities with the intention of starting an actual war involving the United States to take down Iran is not unimaginable, particularly as the Israelis, who have already endorsed the Saudi moves, have been arguing that option and lying about the threat posed by Tehran for a number of years.

A war against Iran would be very popular both with the U.S. congress and the mainstream media, so it would be easy to sell to the American public. The terrorist attack in Tehran on June 6th that killed 17 is being blamed in some Iranian circles on the Saudis, a not unreasonable assumption. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack but it must also be observed that both the Saudis and Israelis have good connections with the terrorist group. But if the possibility of a possible Saudi hand is true or even plausibly so, it guarantees a rise in tension and an incident at sea could easily be contrived by either side to escalate into a shooting war. The United States would almost inevitably be drawn in, particularly in light of Trump’s ridiculous comment on the tragedy, tweeting that Iran is“falling victim to the evil they promote.”

There is also other considerable collateral damage to be reckoned with as a consequence of the Trump intervention even if war can be avoided. Qatar hosts the al-Udeid airbase, the largest in the Middle East, which is home to 10,000 U.S. servicemen and serves as the Combined Air and Space Operations Center for Washington and its allies in the region and beyond. Now the United States finds itself squarely in the middle of a fight between two alleged friends that it doesn’t have to involve itself in, an intervention that will produce nothing but bad results. Backing Saudi Arabia in this quarrel serves no conceivable American interest, particularly if the ultimate objective is to strike at a non-threatening Iran. So the fallback position is to lie about what the support for the aggressive Saudi posturing really means – it is alleged to be about terrorism, which is always a popular excuse for government overreach.

And the ultimate irony is that when it comes to terrorism the United States itself does not emerge without fault. As early as 2011, the U.S. was arming Syrian dissidents from the arsenals in Libya, flying in weapons to Turkey to hand over to the rebels. Many of the weapons, as well as those provided to Iraqi forces, have wound up in the hands of ISIS and al-Nusrah. U.S. advisers training rebels have conceded that it is impossible to determine the politics of many of those receiving instruction and weapons, an observation that has also been made by the Obama White House and by his State Department.

So watch the lies if you want to know when the next war is coming. If the House of Saud, the Israelis and Donald Trump are talking trash and seem to agree about something then it is time to head for the bomb shelter. Will it be Iran or an escalating catastrophe in Syria? Anything is possible.

Scalise in critical condition after attack by gunman at baseball field

June 15, 2017

by Sarah N. Lynch and Ross Colvin


ALEXANDRIA, Va-Congressman Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, was in critical condition on Wednesday night after he and three others were shot as they practiced for a charity baseball game.

The gunman, who had posted angry messages against President Donald Trump and other Republicans on social media, opened fire on a group of Republican lawmakers and colleagues at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington. He was wounded in a gunfight with Capitol Hill police at the scene and later died.

Scalise was shot in the left hip, suffering broken bones, injuries to internal organs and severe bleeding.

He underwent surgery but would need further operations, the MedStar Washington Hospital Center said.

“Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape – but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!” Trump said on Twitter after visiting the hospital on Wednesday night.

The gunman, identified by police as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, fired repeatedly at the men playing on the baseball field on Wednesday morning.

Congressmen at the ballpark described hearing loud noises like the sound of firecrackers and 15 to 20 people lying on the ground and realizing they had only baseball bats to defend themselves against bullets.

“When he started shooting, he was shooting to kill people. And thank God he wasn’t a very good shot,” said Representative Joe Barton, the Republican team’s manager.

Also wounded were a congressional aide and one former aide who now works as a lobbyist, officials said. One Capitol Hill police officer suffered a gunshot wound and another officer twisted an ankle and was released from a hospital, police said.

“It was not only chaotic but it was a combat situation,” Alexandria Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters.


While police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was too early to determine whether it was a deliberate political attack, the shooting intensified concerns about the sharp divide and bitter rhetoric in U.S. politics.

FBI special agent Tim Slater declined to comment on whether the gunman had a vendetta against Republicans.

“We continue to actively investigate the shooter’s motives, acquaintances and whereabouts that led to today’s incidents,” Slater told reporters. No one else was in custody, he said.

The gunman was believed to have been in the Alexandria area since March, Slater said. Investigators believe that the suspect had been living out of his vehicle.

Wednesday’s shooting revived debate about gun rights in America. Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, urged gun control measures.

Scalise has been a strong opponent of gun control measures.

Hodgkinson had raged against Trump on social media and was a member of anti-Republican groups on Facebook including, “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Terminate The Republican Party,” and “Donald Trump is not my President,” a search of his Facebook profile showed.

As businessman Trump rose to become the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election, his brash style and outspoken views on immigration and other policies led to mass protests, including on the weekend of his inauguration in January.

The charity ballgame between a Republican team and a Democratic team will go ahead as scheduled on Thursday at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team.

Representative Tim Ryan, who early on Wednesday was practicing for the ballgame with fellow Democrats, told reporters that Washington politicians needed to cool their rhetoric.

“We’ve got to get back to … where things aren’t so personal and we’re so judgmental of each other. It’s got to stop. A member of the U.S. Congress got shot because they didn’t like (his) political views,” Ryan said.


Trump, who announced the gunman’s death, called for unity. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he said.

In a show of bipartisanship, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the floor of the House: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, echoed Ryan’s message.

The shooting happened shortly after 7 a.m. There were 20 House members and two senators present, and the shooting lasted about 10 minutes, said Barton.

Two lawmakers who were at the scene, Representatives Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan, indicated there might have been a political motive in the attack.

Duncan said that as he left the field, the man who would later open fire approached him in the parking lot. “He asked me who was practicing this morning, Republicans or Democrats, and I said: ‘That’s the Republicans practicing,'” Duncan told reporters. DeSantis gave a similar account.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he had been told that Hodgkinson had served as a volunteer with his campaign.

“Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” Sanders said.

Ryan, the House speaker, is reviewing rules on how rank-and-file lawmakers can increase their personal security, according to several lawmakers.

“Members get threats on a regular basis and have trouble determining which are real,” House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer told reporters.


The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington.

Representative Mo Brooks told CNN that during batting practice, he heard a “bam” and then a quick succession of shots and saw the gunman shooting through the holes in a chain link fence.

When Scalise was shot, he went down on the infield between first and second base, then dragged himself into the grassy outfield as the incident unfolded, leaving a trail of blood, Brooks said.

Two Capitol police officers who were there to provide security for the lawmakers engaged the gunman with pistols, Brooks said.

“But for the Capitol police and the heroism they showed, it could very well have been a large-scale massacre. All we would have had would have been baseball bats versus a rifle. Those aren’t good odds,” Brooks said.

Wednesday’s attack was the first shooting of a member of Congress since January 2011, when Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of constituents in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed. Giffords resigned from Congress and became an activist for gun restrictions.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Morgan, Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey, Steve Holland and David Alexander in Washington and Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York; Writing by Will Dunham, Grant McCool and Amanda Becker; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)


Assassination Is Murder, Even When the CIA Does It

June 12, 2017

by Jacob G. Hornberger


An article in last Friday’s New York Times provides a perfect demonstration of what the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state has done to the mindsets of many Americans, especially with respect to assassination.

The article, entitled “Masquerading as Reporter, Assassin Hunted Putin Foes in Ukraine,” details an assassination attempt by a man posing as a reporter against a couple in Ukraine, Adam Osmayev and Amina Okuyeva. The couple are leaders in Ukraine’s fight against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Because Ms. Okuyeva was armed, she was able to foil the assassination attempt.

According to the Times, “The attack was the third high-profile killing or attempted killing in Kiev that the Ukrainian authorities have attributed to Russian security services….”

Note the operative term: Russian.

Now note this excerpt from a succeeding paragraph in the article: “The [reporter’s] cover was good but not flawless, Ms. Okuyeva said in an interview, her first with a foreign news organization since the attempted murder.”

Note the operative term: murder.

Translation: An assassination carried out by Russia constitutes murder.

Let’s now examine an op-ed entitled “The New York Times Recklessly Exposes a CIA Operative’s Identity” by Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen, which appeared in the June 7, 2017, issue of the Post.

Notice an important omission in Thiessen’s op-ed: Not one single mention of the word “murder.” As I explained in my article “Why Should CIA Murderers Be Protected by Secrecy?,” that’s because the U.S. mainstream press, while able to recognize that assassination by Russian agents constitutes murder, is psychologically unable to recognize that the same applies to assassination by CIA and other U.S. agents.

That’s the power of indoctrination and propaganda by the most powerful government in history, one that wields the omnipotent power to assassinate anyone in the world it wants, including American citizens, and not be held to account, not even by the federal judiciary, which has held that it lacks jurisdiction to interfere with U.S. state-sponsored assassinations.

Here is another example of this phenomenon, this one from the New York Times. In an article dated March 1, 2017, entitled “Senior Qaeda Leader Is Killed in Drone Strike,” there is not one single mention of the word “murder.”

Or consider this New York Times article dated August 27, 2015, entitled “The Lessons of Anwar al-Awlaki,” which is about the U.S. assassination of an American citizen, an assassination that the U.S. federal judiciary declined to prevent or punish, notwithstanding the express prohibition against the taking of a person’s life without due process of law found in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the article, there are plenty of references to the term “assassination” but not one single reference to the word “murder.”

Now, compare the article about the U.S. assassination of al-Awlaki with a New York Times article about an assassination in Malaysia that was purportedly carried out by North Korea against Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It begins with “Two women were charged with murder in a Kuala Lumpur court on Wednesday in connection with the assassination….”

Does the Times article question the murder charges arising out of that assassination? Nope. That’s because when communists commit assassination, it’s murder. It’s only when the CIA commits assassinations that they are considered, well, protecting “national security” or “keeping us safe” or “defending our rights and freedoms.”

But in reality CIA assassinations are murder, just as Russian and North Korean assassinations are.

The CIA responds that its victims are deserving of assassination, but we can be reasonably certain that that’s also how Russia and North Korean authorities also feel about their assassination victims. The fact that an assassin feels that his victims deserve to be killed does not remove the killing from the category of murder.

Our American ancestors understood this principle. The last thing they wanted was to bring into existence a government whose officials wielded the power to kill people without first going through a legal process that established that the killing was justified. That’s what the term “due process of law” is all about — to ensure that a person is provided notice, hearing, and an opportunity to show he isn’t guilty of what the authorities want to kill him for. It’s also what trial by jury is for — to enable an accused to have ordinary citizens, not government officials, decide whether he’s guilty or not. It’s what the government’s burden of proof in a criminal case — “beyond a reasonable doubt” — is all about—to provide a judicial process where the government must prove that a person has committed an offense before they can kill him for it.

Under the system of government devised by our ancestors, if a jury returns a verdict of “not guilty,” the accused walks free, no matter how convinced U.S. officials are of his guilt. Under the federal government as originally devised, they are prohibited from killing him once he is found not guilty.

That is what once distinguished the United States from most other countries. Not anymore. The conversion of the federal government to a national-security state changed all that. Now, the U.S. government, operating through the CIA or the Pentagon, wields the omnipotent power to do what totalitarian states throughout history have been empowered to do — kill people with impunity — murder them.

An excerpt from that New York Times article about the assassination attempt on Adam

Osmayev and Amina Okuyeva is revealing: “In 2006, the Russian government legalized targeted killings abroad of people posing terrorist threats, resuming a Soviet-era practice.”

When you start to read that sentence, you’re tempted to think that in 2006 the Russia government decided to copy the U.S. government’s policy of assassination … until you arrive at the last phrase: “resuming a Soviet-era practice.”

And there you have it. The communist regime in the Soviet Union engaged in assassination. So did the communist regime in North Korea.

It was the CIA and the Pentagon who copied the tactic from the communists. That’s how they justified the conversion of the U.S. government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state after World War II. U.S. officials believed that to defeat the communists in the Cold War, the U.S. government needed to become like the communists. Since the communists engage in assassination, they felt, so must the United States.

It was the worst thing Americans could ever do, and, as we have seen, it ended up warping and distorting the mindsets and consciences of many Americans. One does not fight evil with evil. One fights evil with good.

Assassination is murder and, therefore, evil, whether it’s committed by the CIA, Russia, or North Korea. The second-best thing that Americans could ever do is stop their government from continuing to assassinate people, even if Russia, North Korea, or any other country engages in it. The best thing they could ever do is restore a constitutional republic to our land.

Jeff Sessions Can’t Remember Anything

June 13 2017

by Mattathias Schwartz and Ryan Devereaux

The Intercept

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of the first members of the Republican establishment to ally himself with then-candidate Donald Trump, appeared on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In his testimony, Sessions sought to staunch the increasingly rapid flow of embarrassing information from the Trump White House. The attorney general is near the center of multiple controversies dogging Trump. One is the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Sessions recommended in a memo, for reasons that are still unclear. Another is contact between Sessions and Russian ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak, whom Sessions has variously claimed he did not meet with during the campaign, met with only twice, and now, perhaps, met with three times. The third alleged meeting with Kislyak, during a campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, was one of many important particulars that Sessions claimed he could not remember. He answered more than 20 questions with some version of “I don’t recall,” “I don’t recollect,” or “I don’t remember.”

Combined with last week’s testimony from Comey, today’s hearing crystallized the tenor of Washington under the Trump administration. Much of the government seems bogged down in litigating the Russia controversy and strange happenings in the Oval Office, where the half-life of presidential confidences has never been shorter. Today, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., insisted that on top of its Russia investigation, his committee was continuing to oversee the intelligence community’s $50 billion-plus budget and considering the renewal of major, controversial legal authorities for government surveillance. In public, however, not much aside from the Russia investigation is getting done.

Sessions, a small man whose gray hair cuts against his boyish, almost elfin appearance, arrived nine minutes late, wearing his usual expression of slightly startled amiability. He sipped from two glasses of ice water as he tried to convince the committee of how little he could remember despite a sincere desire to help. The campaign moved so quickly, Sessions said, that he often didn’t keep a diary or contemporaneous notes. He could not say with absolute certainty who he did and did not meet with, what was discussed, or who other members of the Trump campaign might have met with. “If I don’t qualify it, you’ll accuse me of lying,” he said in response to an aggressive series of questions from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. “I don’t want to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”

Sessions was unequivocal about at least one thing. He said he never sought or received intelligence relating to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. “I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper,” he said.

Sessions’s admittedly poor and incomplete memory sharpened up considerably when the time came to discuss a fateful meeting between Comey and Trump in the Oval Office in February. In his own testimony, Comey said that Trump asked to meet with him alone and that Sessions was the last one out of the room. Then Trump, according to Comey, brought up the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. Flynn had resigned the previous day, and Trump, Comey alleged, said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He’s a good guy.”

Today, Sessions corroborated that the meeting between Trump and Comey had taken place, and that Comey approached him the following day with concerns. “I do recall being one of the last ones to leave,” Sessions said. “Did you decide to be one of the last to leave?” asked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “I don’t know how that occurred,” Sessions replied. He did differ from Comey on two points. In Sessions’s version of events, it was Comey’s job, not Trump’s, to make sure that their conversations did not stray into active investigations. And Sessions denied remaining silent when Comey brought up his concerns about being left alone with the president. Instead, Sessions said, he told Comey that the FBI and Justice Department “needed to be careful” about following their own guidelines.

Then there were the things that Sessions could perhaps remember, but could not discuss — his conversations with Trump. He refused to say whether he had discussed pardons with Trump; or whether they had talked about the Russia investigation; or how Trump had made the decision to fire Comey, a decision that initially rested on a memo Sessions himself had signed, but which Trump later said, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, came as the president mulled the Russia investigation. Sessions explained his refusal to answer these questions by citing “long-standing department policy,” but ran into some difficulty when asked by Harris exactly what that policy was. He had not read the policy; nor had he asked that the policy be provided to him. He had “talked about it,” he said, although the “it” that was talked about may not have been a policy after all. Instead, Sessions said, it was “the real principle” — that the Constitution guarantees what Sessions called the president’s “confidentiality of communications,” terms that appear in certain legal decisions but do not appear in the Constitution. “It would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege,” Sessions said. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., took a different view, telling the attorney general, “You’re impeding this investigation.”

Evidently, Sessions felt that he could not speak about anything that could conceivably fall under executive privilege in the future, whether or not that privilege had actually been invoked. He continued to insist that there was a written rule, somewhere, supporting his position. He promised Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that he would track it down and provide it to the committee in the future. More than an hour after the hearing ended, the Justice Department provided reporters with a statement pointing to a 1982 memo justifying an attorney general’s refusal to answer Congress’s questions.

His Deputy Under Fire, Too

In the run-up to the hearing, Sessions canceled a previously scheduled appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, where he was supposed to discuss the Trump administration’s multibillion-dollar budget request for the Justice Department. As a candidate, Trump vowed to be a “law and order” president, one who would lean heavily on his hard-line attorney general to re-make core elements of the country’s criminal justice and immigration systems. Sessions referenced this agenda in his opening statement on Tuesday. “The gangs, the cartels, the fraudsters, and the terrorists — we are coming after you,” he said. But instead of showing up to explain how public money would be spent in the service of that evolution, he sent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in his place. Rosenstein took the heat for his boss on matters not only related to the Russia investigation, but also on the critical and wide-ranging work of his department’s new law-and-order agenda.

“I won’t mince words, you’re not the witness we were supposed to hear from today. You’re not the witness who should be behind that table. That responsibility lies with the attorney general of the United States,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee’s ranking member, said in his opening remarks. “Attorneys general of the past did not cower at the request of Congress to oversight responsibility, and they didn’t agree to come and then cancel at the last minute and then send their second-in-command in their stead.”

Noting that the administration’s multibillion-dollar budget request includes hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to assistance provided to victims of crimes, as well as support federal law enforcement investigations, Leahy questioned Sessions’s capacity to lead the Justice Department. “I want to know how he believes he can credibly lead the Justice Department, for which he’s requested $28.3 billion, amid such distressing questions about his actions and integrity,” Leahy said, adding that the department’s workforce deserves a justification from Sessions for the priorities reflected in the Trump administration’s budget. “He owes them that courtesy because the president’s budget request for the Justice Department is abysmal.”

Rosenstein was peppered with questions about the Russia investigation. In May, Rosenstein defended a memo he signed laying out his criticisms of Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and, in doing so, noted that he had discussed with Sessions his negative view of Comey’s behavior last winter. He repeated the claim on Tuesday. Yet while Rosenstein declined to say who directed him to write the document, Sessions, hours later, testified that the president requested assessments on Comey’s fitness to lead the FBI from both men. This prompted Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, to suggest Sessions was selectively choosing which communications with Trump to disclose to lawmakers and which to keep secret.

Rosenstein declined to describe the scope of Sessions’s recusal Tuesday, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. “In matters in which he’s recused, I’m the attorney general, and therefore I know what we’re investigating — he does not,” Rosenstein said. “He actually does not know what we’re investigating and I’m not going to be talking about it publicly.” The deputy attorney general also testified that he and the president have not discussed the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation. He shot down reports of any involvement, on his part, of reported plans to remove Mueller from his post. “There is no secret plan that involves me,” he said.

Sessions, for his part, said he hadn’t discussed removing Mueller with anyone. “I have known Mr. Mueller over the years and he served 12 years as FBI director. I knew him before that. I have confidence in Mr. Mueller,” Sessions said. “I know nothing about the investigation. I fully recuse myself.”

Donald Trump under investigation for possible obstruction of justice: US media

US President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, The Washington Post has reported, citing unnamed officials.

June 14, 2017


Investigators working under special counsel Robert Mueller since he was appointed by the US Justice Department in May to take over the probe into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election are planning to speak with key intelligence officials, The Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

The newspaper – quoting five officials with knowledge of the planned interviews – said one event of interest to Mueller is an exchange on March 22, when the national intelligence director, Daniel Coats, told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene to get ex-FBI head James Comey to reduce the focus on Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, in the ongoing FBI investigation.

Comey told Congress last week he believed he was fired by President Trump to undermine the agency’s ongoing Russia probe.

Coats, National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers and Richard Ledgett, who recently quit as NSA deputy director, have agreed to speak to investigators, according to the Post.

Responding to the news, Trump’s lawyers slammed the leak but did not deny the facts of the story.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, issued a statement saying the FBI was behind the story and called the leak “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

Trump, Republicans, Democrats react

Trump himself responded to the report on Thursday, taking to Twitter to call the entire affair a “phony story

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the accusation in the Post “unfounded” and said it “changes nothing.”

“There’s still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there’s been no effort to impede the investigation in any way. The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here,” McDaniel said in a statement.

Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters later: “I’m going to acknowledge we had a meeting with the special counsel Mueller, but I’m not going to get into the contents.”

The special counsel was appointed by the Justice Department after Comey’s sacking to investigate possible Russian influence on the 2016 presidential campaign.

Senators on Tuesday questioned both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on how the inquiry is being handled.

Mueller too political?

Some of Trump’s closest allies, including one of his sons, have begun questioning if Mueller’s investigation is becoming too political, although the White House issued a statement on Wednesday saying the president has “no intention” of firing Mueller.

Mueller met with leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday to ensure their investigations don’t conflict. Afterward, the leaders said in a statement that they “look forward to future engagements” with Mueller.

The meeting came a day after lawmakers questioned Justice Department officials about the investigation and Mueller’s independence.

Chris Ruddy, a Trump friend and CEO of the conservative website Newsmax, earlier this week raised the possibility of Trump terminating Mueller.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May, testified on Tuesday that he had seen no evidence of good cause to fire Mueller.

Mueller has drawn praise from both Republicans and Democrats, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying they must “let Robert Mueller do his job.”

A new sanctions bill?

Earlier Wednesday, the Republican-led Senate voted to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia’s economy and individuals who carried out cyberattacks.

Lawmakers who backed the measure also cited Russia’s aggression in Syria and Ukraine.

Trump has sought to improve relations with Moscow and rejected any suggestion that Russian hacking of Democratic emails tipped the election his way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brazen attack on our democracy is a flagrant demonstration of his disdain and disrespect for our nation,” Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said ahead of the vote.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered support for the sanctions. He told the House Foreign Affairs Committee he agreed “with the sentiment” among lawmakers that Russia must be held accountable for its meddling.

But he also asked lawmakers “to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation.”

Where Have All the Children Gone?

The Age of Grief

June 15, 2017

by Karen J. Greenberg


“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.

Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region.  In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border.  According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands.  Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.

Rawya Rageh, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, added troubling details to Ward’s storyline, among them that deteriorating conditions in war-torn Syria have made it nearly “impossible to find bread, baby formula, or diapers… leaving survivors at a loss for words” (and just about everything else). Meanwhile, across a vast region, families who survive as families continue to face the daily threat of death, hunger, and loss.  They often are forced to live in makeshift refugee camps in what amounts to a perpetual state of grief and fear, while the threat of rape, death by drone or suicide bomber, or by other forms of warfare and terror is for many just a normal part of existence, and parental despair is the definition of everyday life.

Resignation Syndrome

When normal life disintegrates in this way, the most devastating impact falls on the children. The death toll among children in Syria alone reached at least 700 in 2016. For those who survive there and elsewhere, the prospect of homelessness and statelessness looms large. Approximately half of the refugee population consists of young people under the age of 18.  For them and for the internally displaced, food is often scarce, especially in a country like Yemen, in the midst of a Saudi-led, American-backed war in which civilians are commonly the targets of airstrikes, cholera is spreading, and a widespread famine is reportedly imminent.  In a Yemeni scenario in which 17 million people now are facing “severe food insecurity,” nearly two million children are already acutely malnourished. That number, like so many others emerging from the disaster that is the twenty-first-century Middle East, is overwhelming, but we shouldn’t let it numb us to the simple fact that each and every one of those two million young people is a child like any other child, except that he or she is being deprived of the chance to grow up undamaged.

And for those who do escape, who actually make it to safer countries beyond the immediate war zone, life still remains fragile at best with little expectation of a sustainable future.  More than half of the six million school-age children who are refugees, reports the UNHCR, have no schools to attend.  Primary schools are scarce for them and only 1% of refugee youth attend college (compared to a global average of 34%).  Startling numbers of such refugees are engaged in child labor under terrible working conditions.  Worse yet, a significant number of child refugees are traveling alone.  According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016… easy prey for traffickers and others who abuse and exploit them.”

Such children, mired in poverty and dislocation, are aptly described as growing up in a culture of deprivation and grief.  At least since the creation of UNICEF in 1946, an agency initially focused on the needs of the young in the devastated areas of post-World War II Europe, children at risk have posed a challenge to the world. In recent years, however, the traumas experienced by such young people have been rising to levels not seen since that long-gone era.

A heartbreaking story by Rachel Aviv in the New Yorker catches the extremity of both the plight faced by child refugees and possible reactions to it.  She reports on a group of them in Sweden, largely from “former Soviet and Yugoslav states,” whose families had been denied asylum and were facing deportation.  A number of them suffered from a modern version of a syndrome once known as “voodoo death,” in which a child falls into a coma-like trance of severe apathy. Doctors have termed this state “resignation syndrome, an illness that is said to exist only in Sweden, and only among refugees.” Fearing ouster and threatened with being deprived of the ties they had already formed in that country, they simply turned off, physically as well as emotionally.

While this is certainly not the first time grief has engulfed parts of the world, children have felt the brunt of its woes. By its nature, warfare breeds destruction, dislocation, and grief. But America’s never-ending war on terror, its “longest war,” has contributed to the instances of trauma suffered globally among children and continues to undermine their chances for recovery.

As psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in grief have found, it takes time as well as help to absorb and deal with such trauma and the grief for lives lost and worlds destroyed that follows in its wake. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who famously identified the five steps involved in reacting to grief, has underscored the time it takes to recover from such traumatic experiences. Unfortunately, for refugee children and those uprooted in their own lands, there is usually no time for such a recovery, no safe space in which to experience those five steps. Instead, year after year, the trauma, like the wars, simply persists and intensifies.

One thing seems guaranteed: children who suffer long-term trauma are likely to develop physiological and psychological symptoms that persist into adulthood, rendering it hard for them to parent in a healthy and supportive way. And in this fashion, the wounds of the wars of the present will be handed on to the future.  In the technical language of the experts, “Adverse childhood experiences increase the chance of social risk factors, mental health issues, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, and adult adoption of risky adult behaviors. All of these can affect parenting in a negative way,” and so perpetuate a cycle of dysfunction and trouble.

The Living Casualties of This New Age

There are many ways to think about this twinning of trauma and childhood, which is becoming such a signal part of our age. After the era of the concentration camps in Nazi Europe, psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, who had himself spent almost a year in one, studied the effects of trauma on those who survived exposure to extreme deprivation and the constant threat of death. Adults, he concluded, face the possibility of schizophrenia and the destruction of their personality structures, but children, he wrote, faced worse: the destruction of the self before the ego even came into being. Having been exposed to “extreme situations,” they ended up feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and “deprived of hope.” Many of them had also been forced to grow up without parents who might have helped them through the trauma. Worse yet, some of those he studied had actually seen their parents — or siblings — killed.

What he learned remains, unfortunately, applicable to children in our moment.  Isn’t it time to begin paying more attention to the cost of losing so many children to the forces of deprivation, soul-crushing devastation, and the culture of death at both a global and the most personal of levels?  Isn’t it time for the rest of us to begin to imagine just what millions of damaged children will mean both for our world and for the world they will inherit as adults? Some of them, of course, will rise above the damage done to them in their youth, but many will not and so will lead lives of loneliness, confusion, and pain, and will potentially pose a danger both to themselves and to others.

As Bettelheim’s work, which almost anticipated Sweden’s “resignation syndrome,” suggests, the early years of the twenty-first century are hardly the first age of grief, nor will they likely be the last.  They are, however, ours to deal with and their ravages are already evident not just in the Middle East, but in the rest of the world, too. In Europe and the United States, terrorist attacks tied ideologically to the war on (and of) terror and targeted against civilians, continue to undermine the sense of security to which the citizens of such countries were until recently accustomed. Children are not only part of this cycle of death and destruction, but in a recent instance — the suicide bombing in Manchester, England — were its target, as they also have been elsewhere, as in the abduction of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014. Meanwhile, teenage boys are being targeted as recruits for ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Strikingly, the United States has shown remarkably little concern for the children of the war-torn and violence-ridden areas of the Greater Middle East. Those young people could be thought of as the worst of the collateral damage from the years of invasions, occupations, raids, bombing runs, and drone strikes, including the children or youthful relatives of targeted, designated American enemies like Anwar al-Awlaki.

This lack of concern is strikingly reflected in the anti-refugee policies of the Trump era. Refugee children refused admission to the U.S. and other advanced countries and, forced to live in a state of limbo, are being harmed.  Such policies and “bans” are exactly the opposite of what’s needed to heal the world and move forward. Recently, as if to make just that point, an old photograph of a child has been appearing on Twitter over the caption “Denied refuge and murdered in Auschwitz: the human cost of refugee bans.” As a signal of what to expect from the U.S. in the age of Trump, consider his administration’s proposed budget, which calls for a cut of more than $130 million in funding for UNICEF, the signature agency providing relief and services to children in need globally.

The U.S. and its allies may one day defeat ISIS and other terror groups, but if what’s left in their wake is only bombed-out, unreconstructed landscapes and millions of uprooted children, what kind of victory will that be? What kind of future will that ensure?

There will be no “winning,” not truly, if the crisis of grief, the crisis of the children who are the living casualties of this new age, is not addressed sooner rather than later. For every dollar that goes toward a weapon or the immediate struggle against terror outfits, shouldn’t another go to the support of those children, to the struggle to stabilize their lives, to provide them with homes, education, and care of the sort that they so desperately need? For every short-term prediction about the possible harm refugees could bring to a country, shouldn’t there be some consideration of what the children who are taken care of will want to give their new homelands in return?  Shouldn’t some thought be given to the world that the rejected or deported young, if left in distress, will someday create?

In Sweden, where the problems of traumatized refugee children have now been studied for more than a decade, the recommendation of psychiatrists and other experts to that country’s policymakers was simple enough: “A permanent residency permit is considered by far the most effective ‘treatment.’”

The loss of childhood, the crippling effects of trauma, the narrative of grief, and the cruel removal of any sense of hope or of a secure future have been seeping into global discourse about children for many years now. Isn’t it time to begin to see their global crisis for what it is: one of the major threats to a stable future for the planet?

Deadly cholera epidemic infecting one child every minute sweeps through Yemen

Yemen on ‘the verge of total collapse’, Save the Children says

June 14, 2017

by Fiona Keating

The Independent/UK

Save the Children has warned that the rate of cholera infection in Yemen has tripled over the past 14 days, with an average of 105 children contracting the disease every hour – or one every 35 seconds.

The country is now on “the verge of total collapse” according to Grant Pritchard, the charity’s director.

During the war currently raging in the Middle Eastern country, more than 7,600 people have lost their lives and 42,000 have been injured since March 2015.

Most were killed in air strikes by a Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

This conflict has caused a humanitarian disaster which is hitting young children the hardest.

More than two million Yemeni children are extremely malnourished, leaving them vulnerable to disease.

“Cholera is one form of acute, watery diarrhoea, a symptom that can be caused by any number of bacteria, viruses and parasites,” Caroline Anning, of the charity, told The Independent.

“In its most severe form, cholera is one of the swiftest lethal infectious diseases known – characterised by an explosive outpouring of fluid and electrolytes within hours of infection that, if not treated appropriately, can lead to death within hours. In places where drinking water is unprotected from faecal contamination, cholera can spread with stunning speed through entire populations.”

With prompt and appropriate treatment, child deaths can be kept low through a combination of public health interventions. These include medical cholera kits, provision of safe water and hygiene promotion.

The war-torn country is facing “a perfect storm”, Ms Anning said.

Bombing has affected sanitation works, with health facilities unable to run.

“It’s very difficult to ship in supplies to Yemen as there is a de facto blockade, with Sana’a, the country’s primary international airport, closed to commercial flights,” she added.

Save the Children fund, together with other humanitarian agencies, have developed a new Integrated Cholera Response Plan seeking a total of £52m ($66m) – three times more than the previous appeal – to implement health provisions including cholera kits and chlorinated water.

Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?

More than 400 people have died in jihadist attacks in the West during the past three years. What can we learn, asks Dr Lorenzo Vidino.

June 14, 2017

BBC News

Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number in Europe and North America – more than 50 in total – have put the authorities under great pressure to prevent further deaths.

What do we know of the individuals who carried out the attacks – their life in the West, whether they were known to the authorities and with whom they were working?

The first look at the data behind the attacks – everything from the age of the perpetrators, to immigration status – offers counter-terrorism officials, and the public, an insight that could help them identify the best responses.

Where the attacks were

We identified 52 attacks between December 2014 and early June 2017 that we considered to be acts of jihadist terrorism.

This period follows the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014.

A relatively limited number of countries were affected.

Six were in Europe: France – the worst affected country, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.

There were also attacks in the United States and Canada.

Regardless of country, most attacks were in large towns and cities – including London, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels and Orlando.

A few attacks hit iconic targets, such as the Champs-Elysees and the Louvre museum in Paris, and Westminster in London.

Many others targeted crowded spaces such as busy pedestrian areas, entertainment venues or transport hubs.

But some terrorist attacks have hit more unusual places, including an office Christmas party and a service at a church.

How the attacks were identified

We looked at attacks motivated by jihadist ideology, that involved deliberate acts of violence against other people and were intended to intimidate or convey a message to a larger group. Other organisations use different definitions.

  • Researchers used open-source material and interviews with officials
  • It is possible that some attacks did not come to our attention, or that full details are not available
  • The research covers the US, Canada and the 28 member states of the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland
  • Attacks motivated by other ideologies – such as the murder of Jo Cox – are not included in this study

The dead and injured

In total, the 52 attacks caused 403 deaths and left more than 1,600 people injured.

The perpetrators are not included in these figures.

The Paris attack of November 2015 was the deadliest, with 130 people killed, including 90 at the Bataclan theatre.

France also saw the Nice lorry attack, which left 86 people dead.

There were many other attacks that left many people dead and others injured.

  • In Orlando, 49 people were killed in an attack on a gay nightclub
  • Bombings at Brussels airport and at a metro station left 32 people dead
  • 14 people were killed at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California
  • 12 people died when a lorry was driven into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin
  • 12 people died when the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked in January 2015
  • Five people were killed in the Westminster attack in April
  • The Manchester Arena bombing in May led to 22 deaths
  • The London Bridge attack in June left eight people dead

In total, these 10 attacks were responsible for 370 deaths.

However, most of the attacks did not cause casualties, with the exclusion of the perpetrators.

Who the attackers were

Although the number of young people being radicalised has caused concern, the average age of the attackers – 27 – is not unusually young.

The two youngest were 15 – an unnamed boy who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, and Safia S, a girl who stabbed a police officer at a Hannover train station.

How old were the attackers?

15 Age of the youngest attacker

27 Average age of attackers

52 Age of the oldest attacker

Of the five who were under the age of 18 at the time, four were in Germany.

The vast majority of the attackers were in their 20s, with about one in four attackers above the age of 30 and three aged 40 or older.

The oldest attacker, Khalid Masood, was 52 when he drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed to death a police officer at the Houses of Parliament.

It is noteworthy that the older perpetrators were twice as likely to have been imprisoned and to have a history of substance abuse.

Despite women becoming increasingly active in jihadist networks, only two out of 65 individual perpetrators were female.

Fewer than one in five perpetrators was a convert to Islam, with a significantly higher percentage in North America than in Europe.

However, the converts were significantly more likely to have a criminal background and to have served time in prison.

Overall, most of the attackers had a prior criminal background.

Immigration status

The relationship between terrorism and migration is a complex one and has been at the centre of extremely polarising debates, particularly during the European migrant crisis.

However, the number of attackers who were illegally in a country or who arrived as refugees is small.

Three-quarters were citizens of the country they attacked, with others either legal residents, or legal visitors from neighbouring countries.

However, individuals who were in the West illegally also carried out deadly attacks.

At least two of those involved in the November 2015 Paris attacks are thought to have posed as refugees to enter Europe through Greece.

Three other individuals were refugees or asylum seekers at the time of attack, while four were in the country illegally or awaiting deportation.

The latter group includes Uzbek national Rakhmat Akilov, who killed four people with a hijacked lorry in Stockholm in April 2017, and Tunisian citizen Anis Amri, who also used a lorry to commit his attack at the Berlin Christmas market.

There is also one case of “terrorist tourism”, involving Egyptian citizen Abdullah Hamamy, who lived in the United Arab Emirates and attacked soldiers at the Louvre in February 2017.

Links to IS

Two of the four most lethal attacks – those in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 – are believed to be well orchestrated multiple attacks directed by IS.

They were also executed in part by former foreign fighters.

However, the two other most deadly attacks – those in Orlando in June 2016 and in Nice in July 2016 – were carried out independently by individuals without operational connection to a jihadist group.

These episodes demonstrate that terrorist sympathisers who never travelled to conflict areas and who act independently can be as dangerous as a team of highly trained militants.

Overall, links between attackers and jihadist groups operating overseas are not always easy to determine.

Of the attacks that have hit the West since June 2014, fewer than one in 10 was carried out under direct orders from the leadership of IS.

Nevertheless, the influence of IS can be clearly seen.

During or before the attack, six out of 10 perpetrators pledged allegiance to a jihadist group, almost always IS – which frequently claims responsibility.

Learning the lessons

Unsurprisingly, given the frequency of attacks and the number of deaths and injuries, jihadist terrorism has come to the fore of political debates in the West and receives widespread news coverage.

The threat is not expected to wane in the near future, with policymakers, counter-terrorism officials and the public all being asked to take action.

There are huge implications for domestic and foreign policy throughout Western countries.

It is hoped that knowing more about the attacks and the people who carried them out will help us all have a more informed debate about what action is needed.

‘CIA’s Cherry Bomb’: WikiLeaks #Vault7 reveals wireless network targets

June 15, 2017


The latest Wikileaks Vault7 release reveals details of the CIA’s alleged Cherry Blossom project, a scheme that uses wireless devices to access users’ internet activity.

The Cherry Blossom program also provides a means to perform software exploits on particular ‘targets’, meaning the hacker can take advantage of vulnerabilities on the target’s device, according to a Wikileaks press release.

Wikileaks notes that the common use of WiFi devices in homes, offices, and public spaces makes them ideal for these so-called ‘Man-In-The-Middle’ attacks as the Cherry Blossom program can easily monitor, control and manipulate the Internet traffic of connected users.

Malicious content can be injected into the data stream between the user and the internet service, which exploits vulnerabilities in the target’s computer or operating system, according to WikiLeaks.

No physical access is required to implant the customized Cherry Blossom firmware on a wireless device as some devices allow their firmware to be upgraded over a wireless link.

The new firmware on the device can be triggered to turn the router or access point into a so-called ‘FlyTrap’. The FlyTrap can scan for “email addresses, chat usernames, MAC addresses and VoIP numbers” in passing network traffic, according to the leaked documents.

Are you unable to afford decent housing? Welcome to the club

Some of us have been dealing with the housing crisis for decades. Now, the problem is working its way up the income ladder to the middle class

June 15, 2017

by Ijeoma Olup

The Guardian

The affordable housing crisis is becoming inescapable. We have now reached the point where a minimum wage worker can only afford to live in about a dozen counties in the entire nation. Even those with college degrees and wages above minimum wage struggle. This problem doesn’t just impact countless poor Americans, anymore. Now, it hits middle class families, too.

For many, it’s outrageous that this crisis is no longer is confined to the bottom of the income ladder. ‘What do you mean that someone earning $20 an hour in LA wouldn’t be able to afford a 1 bedroom apartment?’ gasp those in the middle class.

When it was in the news that you’d have to earn $24 an hour in order to afford a 1 bedroom apartment in Seattle, where I live, I finally saw community members talking more seriously about both housing density and rent controls. But for those of us who have been locked into a housing crisis for generations due to race, gender, class or disability, we are left wondering why so many are just now paying attention to an issue that has already destroyed countless lives.

By the time I was 7, I had already moved four times. My mom, a single mother of three, moved from apartment to apartment almost yearly. She couldn’t afford any of them on her minimum wage salary.

As money became tight the phone would be the first to go, then the electricity. I remember showering at neighbor’s apartments, or borrowing a key to a vacant apartment from a generous maintenance worker. I remember getting the hazardous gas lamps out of the closet, by 9 an expert at not spilling the fuel on the carpet while I set the lamps out and lit them in order to do my homework at night.

Eventually, even with no phone or electricity, there wouldn’t be enough money to make rent and eat, so we’d move again. A few times, if another affordable place couldn’t be found by the time next month’s rent was due, we’d sleep in our car for a few days.

If my mom couldn’t find an affordable place to live in the area, she’d have to look for another job somewhere more affordable, giving up any chance at promotion or pay raise. Every year a new school, new friends, new routine. Every time we had to move, whatever money my mother had managed to save went to rental deposits that often equaled more than two months of her pay.

As a single mother earning minimum wage, my mom was trapped in the cycle of unlivable wages and unaffordable rents that stymied any attempts she made stability for her family. Stable housing – both in prices and residential permanency – are one of the most important indicators of social and economic success in this country.

Studies have shown that housing instability and frequent moves dramatically increase a child’s likelihood of suffering from social, behavioral and educational issues and housing stability is one of the greatest indicators of childhood success.

Children who move two or more times due to eviction or being priced out are 13 to 15% less likely to graduate high school by age 20, and even less likely to attend or graduate from college – further trapping them in the low wage jobs that led to the same housing insecurity that they grew up with.

Children who lack stable housing are more likely to be forced into environmentally hazardous living environments and are therefore more likely to suffer from asthma, lead poisoning, fatigue and headache from mold, dust, cockroaches, rodents and other environmental factors.

People of all ages who don’t have stable and affordable housing also have a harder time accessing healthy food, building a consistent relationship with a family doctor, or getting regular refills on needed prescription medications. Adults who lack stable housing are more likely to report lower levels of mental and physical health than those who are stably housed.

People of color, disabled people, and single mothers are more likely to work low and minimum wage jobs or be unemployed than the rest of the population, and because of this, many people in these groups have found themselves locked in generations of poverty.

The average black household in the US has 1/16th the net financial worth of the average white household. That is a disparity that creates a hole that is almost impossible to climb out of.

Newer generations of black Americans are highly likely to enter the workforce with less access to advanced education, no financial support from family, and far fewer employment contacts from community members and a lack of reliable transportation – making the chances that they too will find themselves in the same poverty of their parents incredibly high.

These outcomes look just as bleak for Native American families, Hispanic families, and disabled people. This is a cycle that keeps marginalized groups marginalized, while landowners who are rapidly increasing rents in order to take advantage of an ever-shrinking rental market profit off of our poverty.

And while it is now become so large of an issue that it is starting to affect a noticeable amount of the population that was once known as middle class, it has been a disaster for poor communities – especially poor communities of color – for the entirety of this nation’s history.

As the black child of a poor single mother, I have finally been able to in these last 3 years break the cycle of poverty and housing instability that has plagued my family.

I was one of the few black people in America who was able to secure a loan for a small home I could afford. I cling to my mortgage like my life depends on it, because in some ways it does.

My 9 year old son has been able to go to the same school for the last three years, and he is flourishing. But the scars of a life of instability remain in my life. There are the 9 teeth I’ve had pulled as an adult due to the inability to see a dentist regularly as a child.

I’m just now regularly seeing the specialist for the chronic disease that I’ve never before been able to treat, I’ve gotten therapy for the chronic anxiety that my brother and I both suffer from – left over from a childhood of insecurity. And there is the retirement fund that I haven’t even started even though I’m almost 40. All of my savings had to go to rental deposits every time that my kids and I were priced out of our home.

My 16 year old son still struggles in school, both academically and socially, from years of being unable to build a lasting connection to his school or community due to our almost yearly moves. But I think with a lot of work, we will eventually be okay.

My mom is still, in her 60s even with all her kids gone, struggling to afford her home and racking up debt to make ends meet. In a bit of irony, my mom is now living in the same 1 bedroom apartment that I first moved into when I left home at 18. The rent that I struggled to pay in 1999 on $8 an hour has now increased to an amount that she struggles to pay at $18 an hour.

Her rent goes up again in a few months and she doesn’t know what she’ll do then. She has no savings for a deposit on a new place. She’ll never own a home. She’s not sure if she’ll ever be able to retire. I’m trying to find a way to make room for her in my tiny home in the hopes that she won’t have to work into her 80’s.

There is nothing that the latest reports on the housing crisis can tell my mother that she doesn’t already know. It is outrageous and unconscionable that affordable, stable housing should be so far out of reach for so many – it always has been.

We need to not only slow the rapid rise in rents, we need to actually reach back and help those left behind generations ago. We are long overdue for real living wages, comprehensive housing reform, and a reinvestment in social safety nets for the poor in this country – not because it is becoming a crisis, but because it has been a crisis for so very long.


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