TBR News March 16, 2017

Mar 16 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 16, 2017: “As more and more is revealed about the astonishing degree and extent of governmental, and private, spying on the entire American public, that public is growing increasingly angry at its total lack of privacy.

That the great bulk of the victims are not Muslim terrorists or enemies of the state is of no interest to the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the DHS and other alphabet agency spies.

The choice of library books, medical records, school transcripts, all social media jabberings, small children’s conversations with electronic spy dolls, sex toys, telephones, computers, conversations in public transportation, internet information agencies, random conversations in restaurants, choice of food in markets and many more gross intrusions are part of the daily culling of all of what we once thought were our private lives.”

Table of Contents

  • A Soft Coup, or Preserving Our Democracy?
  • Queen formally approves law giving UK PM May power to trigger EU exit talks
  • What Is the CIA Hack All About?
  • Turkish referendum threatens formal divorce with EU
  • UN report: Israel has established an ‘apartheid regime’
  • China’s ‘airpocalypse’ linked to Arctic sea ice loss
  • Geert Wilders Falls Short in Election, as Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes
  • Sacred Lunacy Manifested

 A Soft Coup, or Preserving Our Democracy?

Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.

March 14, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

We Americans have long regarded coups as undesirable political turmoil afflicting nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America in which governments are changed by force rather than through the ballot box. During the past several weeks, political commentators are beginning to use the word when describing the series of events that began last summer with the claim that Russia was somehow interfering in our national election on behalf of one candidate. To be sure, no one expects the country’s armed forces to march on the White House and force Donald Trump out, but some commentators are suggesting that a political environment is deliberately being created that will either make it impossible for Trump to govern or, if the pieces fall together nicely, will provide grounds for impeachment. As those who might be promoting that kind of regime change are civilians who will not be resorting to armed insurrection, it might be most correct to refer to the possible coup as “soft” or even “stealth.” Conservative radio host and author Mark Levin refers to it as a “silent coup.”

Coup or legitimate political pushback depends on which side of the fence one is standing on. There are two competing narratives to choose from and there is inevitably considerable gray area in between depending on what turns out to be true. One narrative, coming from the Trump camp, is that President Obama used the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies plus judicious leaks of classified information and innuendo to the media to sabotage Trump during and after the campaign. This was largely done by spreading malicious claims about the campaign’s associates, linking them to criminal activity and even suggesting that they had been subverted to support Russian interests. As of this date, none of the “Manchurian candidate” allegations have been supported by evidence because they are not true. The intention of the Obama/Clinton campaign is to explain the election loss in terms acceptable to the Democratic Party, to hamstring and delegitimize the new administration coming in, and to bring about the resignation or impeachment of Donald Trump. It is in all intents and purposes a coup, though without military intervention, as it seeks to overturn a completely legal and constitutional election.

The contrary viewpoint is that team Trump’s ties to Russia constitute an existential national security threat, that the Russians did steal information relevant to the campaign, did directly involve themselves in the election to discredit U.S. democracy and elect Trump, and will now benefit from the process, thereby doing grave damage to our country and its interests. Adversarial activity undertaken since the election is necessary, designed to make sure the new president does not alter or eliminate the documentary record in intelligence files regarding what took place and to limit Trump’s ability to make serious errors in any recalibration with Moscow. In short, Trump is a dangerous man who might be in bed with an enemy power and has to be watched closely and restrained. Doing so is necessary to preserve our democratic system.

This is what we know or think we know described chronologically:

The sources all agree that in early 2016 the FBI developed an interest in an internet server in Trump Tower based on allegations of possible criminal activity, which in this case might have meant suspicion of involvement in Russian mafia activity. The interest in the server derived from an apparent link to Alfa Bank of Moscow and possibly one other Russian bank, regarding which the metadata (presumably collected either by the Bureau or NSA) showed frequent and high-volume two-way communications. It is not clear if a normal criminal warrant was actually sought and approved and/or acted upon but, according to The New York Times, the FBI somehow determined that the server did not have “any nefarious purpose” and was probably used for marketing or might even have been generating spam.

The examination of the server was only one part of what was taking place, with The New York Times also reporting that, “For much of the summer, the FBI pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats….” The article also noted that, “Hillary Clinton’s supporters…pushed for these investigations,” which were clearly endorsed by President Obama.

In June, with Trump about to be nominated, some sources claim that the FBI sought a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to tap into the same Trump Tower server and collect information on the American users of the system. FISA warrants relate to investigations of foreign intelligence agents but they also permit inadvertent collection of information on the suspect’s American contacts. In this case the name “Trump” was reportedly part of the request. Even though FISA warrants are routinely approved, this request was turned down for being too broad in its scope.

Also in the summer, a dossier on Trump compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that was commissioned initially by a Republican enemy of Trump and was later picked up and paid for by the Democratic National Committee began to make the rounds in Washington, though it was not surfaced in the media until January. The dossier was being worked on in June and by one account was turned over to the FBI in Rome by Steele in July. It later was passed to John McCain in November and was presented to FBI Director James Comey for action. It contained serious but largely unsubstantiated allegations about Trump’s connection to Russia as a businessman. It also included accounts of some bizarre sexual escapades.

At roughly the same time the Clinton campaign began a major effort to connect Trump with Russia as a way to discredit him and his campaign and to deflect the revelations of campaign malfeasance coming from WikiLeaks. In late August, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to Comey and demanded that the “connections between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign” be investigated. In September, Senator Diane Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the Senate and House intelligence committees respectively publicly accused the Russians of meddling in the election “based on briefings we have received.”

In October, some sources claim that the FBI resubmitted its FISA request in a “narrowed down” form which excluded Donald Trump personally but did note that the server was “possibly related” to the Trump campaign. It was approved and surveillance of the server on national security grounds rather than criminal investigatory grounds may have begun. Bear in mind that Trump was already the Republican nominee and was only weeks away from the election and this is possibly what Trump was referring to when he expressed his outrage that the government had “wiretapped” Trump Tower under orders from the White House.

Trump has a point about being “tapped” because the NSA basically records nearly everything. But as president he should already know that and he presumably approves of it.

Several other sources dismiss the wiretap story as it has appeared in the media. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “denied” on March 5 that there had been a FISA warrant authorizing surveillance of the Trump Tower server. He stated that there had never been any surveillance of Trump Tower “to my knowledge” because, if there had been a FISA warrant, he would have been informed. Critics immediately noted that Clapper has previously lied about surveillance issues and his testimony contradicts other evidence suggesting that there was a FISA warrant, though none of the sources appear to know if it was ever actually used. Former George W. Bush White House Attorney General Michael Mukasey provided a view contrary to that of Clapper, saying that “there was surveillance, and that it was conducted at the behest of the… Justice Department through the FISA court.” FBI Director Comey also entered the discussion, claiming in very specific and narrow language that no phones at Trump Tower were “tapped.”

The campaign to link Trump to Russia also increased in intensity, including statements by multiple former and current intelligence agency heads regarding the reality of the Russian threat and the danger of electing a president who would ignore that reality. It culminated in ex-CIA Acting Director Michael Morell’s claim that Trump was “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” British and Dutch intelligence were apparently discreetly queried regarding possible derogatory intelligence on the Trump campaign’s links to Russia and they responded by providing information detailing meetings in Europe. Hundreds of self-described GOP foreign policy “experts” signed letters stating that they opposed Trump’s candidacy and the mainstream media was unrelentingly hostile. Leading Republicans refused to endorse Trump and some, like Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, cited his connections to Russia.

President Obama and the first lady also increasingly joined in the fray as the election neared, campaigning aggressively for Hillary. President Obama called Trump’s “flattery” of Vladimir Putin “out of step” with U.S. norms.

After the election, the drumbeat about Trump and Russia continued and even intensified. There was a 25-page report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on January 6 called “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” Four days later, this was followed by the publication of the 35-page report on Trump compiled by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The ODNI report has been criticized as being long on conjecture and short on evidence while the British report is full of speculation and is basically unsourced. When the Steele dossier first appeared, it was assumed that it would be fact-checked by the FBI but, if that was ever done, it has not been made public.

Also on January 6, two weeks before the inauguration, Obama reportedly “expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 18 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.” This made it easier for derogatory or speculative information on individuals to be shared or leaked. The New York Times interpreted this to be a move intended to “preserve” information relating to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s Russian ties. In this case, wide dissemination was viewed as a way to keep it from being deleted or hidden and to enable further investigation of what took place.

Two weeks later, just before the inauguration, The New York Times reported that the FBI, CIA, NSA and the Treasury Department were actively investigating several Trump campaign associates for their Russian ties. There were also reports of a “multiagency working group to coordinate the investigations across the government.”

Leaks to the media on February 8 revealed that there had been late December telephone conversations between national security advisor designate Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The transcripts were apparently leaked by senior intelligence officials who had access to such highly restricted information, presumably hold-overs from the Obama Administration, and Flynn was eventually forced to resign on February 13 for having lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the calls. For what it’s worth, some at the CIA, FBI and State Department have been openly discussing and acknowledging that senior officers are behind the leaks. The State Department is reported to be particularly anti-Trump.

One day after Flynn resigned The Times cited “four current and former officials” to claim that Trump campaign associates had had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials,” but admitted that there was no evidence that the campaign had in any way been influenced by the Russians.

The Attorney General Jeff Sessions saga, which appeared in the media on March 1, is still ongoing. Sessions is being accused of lying to Congress over two contacts with the Russian ambassador. No one is claiming that he did anything inappropriate with Kislyak and he denies that he lied, arguing that the question was ambiguous, as was his response. He has agreed to recuse himself from any investigation of Russia-Trump campaign ties.

Soon thereafter, also on March 1, The New York Times published a major article which I found frightening due to its revelation regarding executive power. It touched on Sessions, but was more concerned with what was taking place over Russia and Trump. It was entitled “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.” It confirmed the previous European intelligence service involvement in the Trump-Russia investigation and also exposed the long-suspected U.S. intelligence agency interception of telephone communications of Russian officials “within the Kremlin,” revealing that they had been in contact with Trump representatives.

The Times article also described how in early December Obama had ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full assessment of Russian activity relating to the election. Soon thereafter the intelligence agencies acting under White House instruction were pushing Trump-Russia classified information through the system and into analytic documents so it would be accessible to a wide readership after the inauguration while at the same time burying the actual sources to make it difficult to either identify them or even assess the reliability of the information. Some of the information even went to European allies. The State Department reportedly sent a large cache of classified documents relating to Russian attempts to interfere in elections worldwide over to Senator Ben Cardin, a leading critic of Trump and Russia, shortly before the inauguration.

The Times article claimed, relying on anonymous sources, that President Obama was not directly involved in the efforts to collect and disseminate the information on Trump and the Russians. Those initiatives were reportedly directed by others, notably some political appointees working in the White House. I for one find that assertion hard to believe.

The turmoil on Capitol Hill is matched by street rallies and demonstrations denouncing the Trump administration, with much of the focus on the alleged Russian connection. The similarities and ubiquity in the slogans, the “Resist” signs and the hashtags #notmypresident have led some to believe that at least a part of the activity is being funded and organized by progressive organizations that want Trump out. The name George Soros, a Hungarian billionaire and prominent democracy promoter, frequently comes up. Barack Obama is also reported to be setting up a war room in his new home in Washington D.C. headed by former consigliere Valerie Jarrett to “lead the fight and strategy to topple Trump.” And Hillary Clinton has been engaged in developing a viable opposition to Trump while still seething about Putin. Two congressional inquiries are pending into the Russian connection and the FBI investigation, insofar as can be determined, is still active.

If one were to come up with a summary of what the government might or might not have been doing over the past nine months concerning Trump and the Russians it would go something like this: FBI investigators looking for criminal activity connected to the Trump Tower server found nothing and then might have sought and eventually obtained a FISA issued warrant permitting them to keep looking on national security grounds. If that is so, the government could have been using the high-tech surveillance capabilities of the federal intelligence services to monitor the activity of an opposition political candidate. Additional information was undoubtedly collected on Trump and his associates’ dealings with Russia using federal intelligence and law enforcement resources, and NSA guidelines were changed shortly before the inauguration so that much of the information thus obtained, normally highly restricted, could then be disseminated throughout the intelligence community and to other government agencies. This virtually guaranteed that it could not be deleted or hidden while also insuring that at least some of it would be leaked to the media.

The actions undertaken by the lame duck Obama administration were certainly politically motivated, but there also might have been genuine concern over the alleged Russian threat. The Obama administration’s actions were quite likely intended to hobble the new administration in general as Trump would be nervous about the reliability of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies while also being constantly engaged in fighting leaks, but they might also have been designed to narrow the new president’s options when dealing with Russia. Whether there is any intention to either delegitimize or bring down the Trump White House is, of course, unknowable unless you had the good fortune to be in the Oval Office when such options were possibly being discussed.

It should also be observed that all of the investigations by both the government and the media have come up with almost nothing, at least insofar as the public has been allowed to see the evidence. Someone, widely presumed but not demonstrated to be in some way associated with the Russian government, hacked into the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The factual information was then passed to WikiLeaks, which denies that it came from a Russian source, and was gradually released starting in July. There has been a presumption that Moscow was either trying to influence the outcome of the election in support of Donald Trump or that it was trying to somehow subvert American democracy, but no unimpeachable evidence has as of yet been produced to support either hypothesis. The two senior Trump officials – Flynn and Sessions – who have been under the gun have not been pummeled because they did anything wrong vis-à-vis the Russians —they did not — but because they have been accused of lying.

So, whether there is some kind of coup in progress ultimately depends on your perspective and what you are willing to believe to be true. I would suggest that if there continue to be damaging leaks coming from inside the government intended to cripple the White House the possibility that there is a genuine conspiracy in place begins to look more attractive. And the possibility of impeachment is also not far off, as Trump is confronted by a hostile Democratic Party and numerous dissidents within the GOP ranks. But if nothing comes of it all beyond an extremely rough transition, the whole business might just be regarded as a particularly nasty bit of new style politics. If, however, it turns out that the intelligence agencies have indeed been actively collaborating with the White House in working against opposition politicians, the whole tale assumes a particularly dangerous aspect as there is no real mechanism in place to prevent that from occurring again. The tool that Obama has placed in Trump’s hands might just as easily be used against the Democrats in 2020.

Queen formally approves law giving UK PM May power to trigger EU exit talks

March 16, 2017


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on Thursday formally granted Prime Minister Theresa May the power to trigger exit talks with the European Union, approving legislation which passed through parliament late on Monday.

The announcement, made in parliament by speaker John Bercow, confirms that May can begin divorce talks at any time, although her spokesman hinted on Monday that any such decision was likely to come towards the end of the month rather than in the coming days.

(Reporting by William James, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)

What Is the CIA Hack All About?

The danger lies in what might be coming next

March 14, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The WikiLeaks exposure of thousands of documents relating to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking program, which was expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2016, has created something of a panic in the users of cell phones, online computers and even for smart television viewers. The documents describe “more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses and other ‘weaponized’ malware” and one document even identifies attempts to enable CIA controllers to take control of automobiles that have “On Star” or similar satellite interactive features.

According to analysts who have gone through the documents, any electronic device that is connected to the internet is reported to be vulnerable to being taken over and “weaponized,” manipulated through its microphone or camera function even if it appears to be turned off. Apple, Google, Android and Microsoft products were among the technologies that were targeted, with the security systems being constantly probed for vulnerabilities. When a flaw was discovered it was described as “zero day” because the user would have zero time to react to the detection and exploitation of the vulnerability.

And they are indeed everywhere. Ron Paul has described a woman’s test on the Amazon marketed interactive voice controlled device called Alexa, asking it if it were reporting to the CIA. Alexa, which allegedly cannot tell a lie, refused to answer.

According to Wikipedia, “Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon Lab126, made popular by the Amazon Echo. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information.” One reviewer observed “In a good but scary feature, Amazon Echo can learn a person’s habits over time. It will get used to the way a person talks, his/her habits and routines and will save all the data in the cloud.”

Alexa demonstrates that CIA and NSA intrusion into the lives of ordinary people is not unique. In the cyber-sphere there are many predators. Amazon has apparently run special sales to get Alexa devices into as many homes as possible, presumably for commercial reasons, to have a machine in one’s home that will eventually replace the cookies on computers that collect information on what people are interested in buying. The company’s president Jeff Bezos also recently completed a deal worth $600 million for Amazon to provide cloud hosting services for the Agency. And there are, of course, two clear conflicts of interest in that deal as Bezos is selling a device that can be hacked by the government while he also owns The Washington Post newspaper, which, at least in theory, is supposed to be keeping an eye on the CIA.

But spying for profit and spying by the government are two different things and the WikiLeaks revelations suggest that the CIA has had a massive program of cyberespionage running for a number of years, even having created a major new division to support the effort called the Directorate for Digital Innovation, with an operation component called the Center for Cyber Intelligence. Media reports also suggest that a major hub for the operation was the American Consulate General in Frankfurt Germany, where the Agency established a base of operations.

First of all, it is necessary to make an attempt to understand why the CIA believes it needs to have the capability to get inside the operating systems of phones and other devices which rely on the internet. It should be pointed out that the United States government already has highly developed capabilities to get at phones and other electronics. It is indeed the principal raison d’etre of the National Security Agency (NSA) to do so and the FBI also does so when it initiates wiretaps during criminal and national security investigations.

Beyond that, since the NSA basically collects all electronic communications in the United States as well as more of the same fairly aggressively overseas, it would seem to be redundant for the CIA to be doing the same thing. The CIA rationale is that it has a different mission than the NSA. It exists to conduct espionage against foreign intelligence targets, which frequently requires being able to tap into their personal phones or other electronic devices by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating systems. As the targets would be either sources or even prospective agents, the Agency would have to protect their identity in the highly compartment world of intelligence, making outsourcing to NSA problematical.

This need to develop an independent capability led to the development of new technologies by the CIA working with its British counterparts. There were apparently successful efforts to target Samsung “smart” televisions, which would use their speakers to record conversations even when the set was turned off. The project was called “Weeping Angel,” and other hacking programs were called “Brutal Kangaroo,” “Assassin,” “Hammer Drill,” “Swindle,” “Fine Dining” and “Cutthroat,” demonstrating that government bureaucrats sometimes possess a dark sense of humor.

Being able to enter one’s home through a television would be considered a major success in the intelligence world. And the ability to access cell phones at source through obtaining full control of the operating system rather than through their transmissions means that any security system will be ineffective because the snoopers will be able to intrude and hear the conversation as it is spoken before any encryption is applied. CIA and its British allies were reportedly able to take control of either Android or i-Phones through vulnerabilities in their security systems by using their attack technologies.

WikiLeaks claims to have 8,761 documents detailing efforts to circumvent the security features on a broad range of electronic devices to enable them to be remotely tapped, the information having apparently been passed to WikiLeaks by a disgruntled government contractor, though the Russians are perhaps inevitably also being blamed. The U.S. government has apparently been aware of the theft of the information for the past year and one presumes it has both done damage control and is searching for the miscreant involved. Also, there have been security fixes on both Apple and Android phones in the past year that might well have rendered the attack technologies no longer effective.

So many will shrug and wonder what the big deal is. So the CIA is tapping into the electronics of suspected bad guys overseas. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? That question has to be answered with another question: How do we know if that is all the CIA is doing? Technology that can attack and take control of a telephone or television or computer overseas can also do the same inside the United States. And the Agency can always plausibly claim that a connection with a suspect overseas leads back to the U.S. to enable working on related targets on this side of the Atlantic.

Another issue is the possibility to engage in mischief, with potentially serious consequences. The WikiLeaks documents suggest that the CIA program called UMBRAGE had been able to acquire malware signatures and attack codes from Russia, China, Iran and other places. It does that so it can confuse detection systems and preserve “plausible denial” if its intrusion gets caught, disguising its own efforts as Russian or Chinese to cast the blame on the intelligence services of those countries. It has been alleged that the hack of the Democratic National Committee computers was carried out by Moscow employed surrogates and part of the evidence produced was signature malware that had left “fingerprints” linked to Russian military intelligence in Ukraine. What if that hack was actually done by the CIA for domestic political reasons?

Critics have also pointed out that President Obama in 2014 had come to an agreement with major communications industry executives to share with manufacturers information regarding the vulnerabilities in their systems so they could be addressed and made secure. This would have benefited both the industry and the general public. The agreement was obviously ignored in the CIA case and is just another sign that one cannot trust the government.

However, the real downside regarding the CIA hacking is something that might not even have occurred yet. It is an unfortunate reality that government spying operations largely lack regulation, oversight or any effective supervision by Congress or anyone else outside the agencies themselves. Even if knowledge about communications vulnerabilities has not been employed illegally against American targets or to mislead regarding domestic hacks, the potential to use those capabilities once they are in place will likely prove too hard to resist. As such, no home or work environment will any more be considered a safe place and it is potentially, if not actually, the greatest existing threat to Americans’ few remaining liberties.

Turkish referendum threatens formal divorce with EU

Turkey’s EU accession process may be temporarily suspended if Erdogan is granted sweeping powers next month. The deterioration in the rule of law in Turkey is moving the country away from Europe.

March 15, 2017

by Chase Winter


Turkey’s relations with Europe are plunging from bad to worse, raising the prospect of a sharp divorce if constitutional amendments to dramatically expand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers pass a referendum next month.

The diplomatic spat with the Netherlands, triggered after the Turkish government ignored a Dutch refusal to allow its ministers to campaign for the referendum among the diaspora, is symptomatic of the larger crisis plaguing EU-Turkish relations driven by the steady deterioration in the rule of law under Erdogan over the past four years.

A number of European governments have limited or prohibited Turkish ministers from campaigning on their soil for an April 16 referendum on proposed constitutional amendments. A panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe said last week the proposed presidential system represents a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy.

In a calculated move, Erdogan has sought to fuel a crisis to rally nationalist voters ahead of the vote, which according to several polls is leaning towards a “No.”

Condemning several European governments for blocking ministers from campaigning, he has likened the Dutch and German governments to “Nazis” and “fascists,” sharp words that will be difficult to backpedal from.

Against this backdrop, the Netherlands, France and Germany hold critical elections this year amid a surge in anti-immigrant populist parties.

“While Turkey clearly finds it conducive to whip up nationalist sentiment, there are people also doing this on the European side,” said Paul Levin, the Director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies.

But the larger problem is not the narrow issue of blocking Turkish ministers from attending meetings, said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Ankara now at the Carnegie Europe think thank.

“The point is whether European governments will allow a Turkish government that is suppressing freedoms to campaign for more suppression of freedoms on their soil,” he said.

Adding to concern, the referendum will be held under a state of emergency granted in the wake of last July’s failed coup attempt, which the government has used to carry out massive purges.

Meanwhile, the opposition in Turkey faces harassment and restrictions on campaigning, Kurdish lawmakers have been thrown in prison, rule of law is deteriorating and freedom of speech and press are under assault.

Today’s situation in Turkey is a far cry from heady expectations when Erdogan, who was prime minister up until 2014, and his AK Party came to power in 2002 on a pro-EU platform that promised greater rights, freedom and prosperity.

His Islamist party was able to assemble under its umbrella liberals and democrats who pushed through reforms, paving the way for formal EU accession negotiations to open in 2005.

“The AKP when it first came to power did in fact implement a number of significant and sometimes politically difficult reforms in order to pursue a strategy of moving closer to the European Union,” said Levin.

The hope in European capitals at the time was that the EU process would anchor to Turkey to the West and cement democracy. But the reform process stuttered, before dramatically retreating due to a confluence of international and domestic factors.

But the larger problem is not the narrow issue of blocking Turkish ministers from attending meetings, said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Ankara now at the Carnegie Europe think thank.

“The point is whether European governments will allow a Turkish government that is suppressing freedoms to campaign for more suppression of freedoms on their soil,” he said.

Adding to concern, the referendum will be held under a state of emergency granted in the wake of last July’s failed coup attempt, which the government has used to carry out massive purges.

Meanwhile, the opposition in Turkey faces harassment and restrictions on campaigning, Kurdish lawmakers have been thrown in prison, rule of law is deteriorating and freedom of speech and press are under assault.

Today’s situation in Turkey is a far cry from heady expectations when Erdogan, who was prime minister up until 2014, and his AK Party came to power in 2002 on a pro-EU platform that promised greater rights, freedom and prosperity.

His Islamist party was able to assemble under its umbrella liberals and democrats who pushed through reforms, paving the way for formal EU accession negotiations to open in 2005.

“The AKP when it first came to power did in fact implement a number of significant and sometimes politically difficult reforms in order to pursue a strategy of moving closer to the European Union,” said Levin.

The hope in European capitals at the time was that the EU process would anchor to Turkey to the West and cement democracy. But the reform process stuttered, before dramatically retreating due to a confluence of international and domestic factors.

The net effect was the creation of a body of loyalists within the party and state, as Erdogan turned his attention to transforming Turkey from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency with sweeping powers. Erdogan has already used the presidency like no other previous president, violating the constitutional limits on what is traditionally a largely ceremonial post.

Another turning point came in the June 2015 national elections, when the AK Party came first but failed to gain a majority in parliament for the first time. It appeared that voters had sent Erdogan a message to slow down.

But Erdogan and the AK Party refused coalition building and in a calculated gamble to rally nationalist votes, he resumed war with Kurdish militants and called for snap elections that returned AK Party a majority in parliament in November.

The four year period of power consolidation and crackdowns starting with the Gezi Park protests witnessed a steady deterioration in the rule of law that deviates from EU standards, Pierini said.

In particular, the period since mid-2014 “has been a demonstration that Turkey or at least Erdogan is not contemplating a liberal democratic model as we have in Europe. That is the first fundamental rift between Turkey and the EU,” he said.

The deterioration in the rule of law, accelerated after July’s failed coup and subsequent purges, prompted the European Parliament in a non-binding vote in November to call for suspending Turkey’s EU accession process.

The EU may now have to seriously consider temporarily suspending Turkey’s accession negotiations if next month’s referendum passes.

“At some point down the road the EU will have to review EU accession for Turkey. The challenge will be temporarily suspending EU talks without it impacting the refugee crisis and difficult negotiations over Cyprus,” Levin said.

For Pierini, if the draft constitutional changes are adopted it “will be the end of the road.”

“You will have a clear divorce with Europe because there will be one-man rule with no checks and balances,” he said.

UN report: Israel has established an ‘apartheid regime’

Report breaks new ground on the UN’s examination of the situation in occupied Palestine by using the word ‘apartheid’

March 15, 2017

by Ben White


A new United Nations report accuses Israel of having established “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.

The publication comes amid renewed debate about whether, through its settlement policy and rejection of Palestinian self-determination, the Israeli government is creating – or even has already created – a de facto “one-state”, which critics warn would constitute a form of apartheid.

It urged governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives”.

The report – Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid – was commissioned and published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and launched in Beirut.

John Reynolds, a lecturer in law at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, told Al Jazeera the report “breaks new ground in the context of the UN’s analysis of the situation in Palestine”.

Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon issued a statement condemning the report late on Wednesday.

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” he said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked about the report, said it was published without any prior consultations with the UN Secretariat and its views do not reflect those of the secretary-general.

The report was authored by two critics of Israeli state practice: Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, and Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.

Noting how “the expert consensus [is] that the prohibition of apartheid is universally applicable and was not rendered moot by the collapse of apartheid in South Africa”, the report argues that Israel is “guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid”, a “crime against humanity under customary international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”.

The report is a “detailed analysis of Israeli legislation, policies and practices” that highlights how Israel “operates an apartheid regime”, including through “demographic engineering”.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are described as “subjected to oppression on the basis of not being Jewish”, it said.

Palestinians in East Jerusalem similarly experience “discrimination in access to education, healthcare, employment, residency and building rights”, as well as “expulsions and home demolitions”.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are governed by “military law” alongside Jewish settlers “governed by Israeli civil law”, the report said.

Palestinian refugees and exiles are “prohibited from returning to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory” on the basis that they “constitute a ‘demographic threat’ and that their return would alter the demographic character of Israel”.

As well as urging governments to back  BDS, the report recommends that the UN and its member states should “revive the Special Committee against Apartheid, and the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid (1976-1991)”, which would then “report authoritatively on Israeli practices and policies relating to the crime of apartheid”.

The report also suggests an advisory opinion be sought from the International Court of Justice “as to whether the means used by Israel to maintain control over the Palestinian people amount to the crime of apartheid”.

David Keane, associate professor in law at Middlesex University, said the new report differs from previous ones on the subject because it “expressly attaches the apartheid label”.

The report could contribute to an already deteriorating relationship between the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the United Nations.

“For Palestinians and their allies, the report will help to provide a solid basis for their work,” Nadia Hijab, executive director of al-Shabaka – The Palestinian Policy Network – told Al Jazeera .

Citing the reputation and credibility of the authors, Hijab described the report as “a clear, concise document” whose recommendations are “timely and much needed”.

China’s ‘airpocalypse’ linked to Arctic sea ice loss

March 15 2017

by Matt McGrath

BBC News

The air pollution that lingered over eastern China for nearly a month in 2013 has been linked to the loss of Arctic sea ice the previous autumn.

A study says the haze lasted much longer because the melting ice and increased snowfall altered wind circulation patterns.

If Arctic ice continues to shrink due to climate change, the scientists say similar events will likely recur.

They argue that this could threaten the Beijing Winter Olympics set for 2022.

Emissions puzzle

Air quality issues have plagued China in recent years but the pollution experienced in January 2013 was significant because it lasted so long.

The large-scale haze stayed in place for almost a month and around 70% of China’s 74 major cities exceeded the daily air quality standard for very fine particulate matter, which poses serious risks to health.

Scientists were puzzled by the event as the Chinese government had taken steps to curb emissions from coal fired power plants, one of the most significant contributors to air pollution.

Now researchers say that record Arctic sea ice decline in late 2012, plus extensive snowfall over Siberia disturbed wind patterns and produced stagnant air conditions over the east China plain.

“In wintertime, in regions like Beijing you get these north west howling winds that blow like hell,” said Prof Yuhang Wang from Georgia Tech University, one of the report’s authors.

“A ridge system controls the intensity and location of this cold air moving south so what happens when you put in sea ice forcing or snow forcing, the ridge system gets weaker and moves eastward – instead of cold air blowing in the eastern part of China, it went to Korea and Japan in January 2013.”

The research team looked at ventilation conditions over the past 35 years and were able to show that the poor dispersal seen in 2013 was unique.

They then looked at the climate related factors that might contribute to poor ventilation and their findings indicate that the loss of Arctic ice and snowfall over the forests of Eurasia were critical for the haze event.

The researchers weren’t able to separate the scale of the impacts between these two factors. What they are sure about is that in combination, they made the haze much worse.

“You see evidence in the summer that the particulate matter is getting less, but you don’t see a clear trend in the winter and what we believe is that the effort is being hammered by changes in the Polar region with ice and snow,” said Prof Wang.

The researchers say that global climate change will likely ensure that Arctic sea ice continues to decline and maintain the conditions for haze events.

They say this could threaten the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 which will take place across a large geographical area. In their view it poses a greater threat to these future games, than dirty air did to the summer games in 2008.

“Had the Chinese government not reduced emissions as much as they did in the last four years we would have seen the same or worse airpocalypse events,” said Prof Wang.

“We haven’t seen it as much because of these emissions reductions and the study shows that if you want to clean up air during the Olympics they have to cut emissions even more drastically than they expected before.”

The authors say that while China can take more steps to curb particulate matter, curbing the greenhouse gases that are helping to shrink Arctic sea ice, will take a global effort.

Geert Wilders Falls Short in Election, as Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes

March 15, 2017

by Alissa J. Rubin

The New York Times

THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.

The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.

Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains.

The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy. Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”

“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” Mr. Rutte told a wildly enthusiastic crowd, excited that his party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, had come in first among the parties and lost fewer seats than it had feared.

“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.

Alexander Pechtold, the leader of Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party, struck a similar note underscoring the vote as a victory against a populist extremist.

“During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us,” Mr. Pechtold said. “They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands.”

According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.

Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.

In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.

Yet there are limits to how much the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, will be a reliable predictor for Europe’s other important elections this year, including next month’s presidential elections in France.

Mark Bovens, a political scientist at Utrecht University, noted that Mr. Wilders and other right-wing parties, despite their gains, did not drastically cross traditional thresholds.

“The nationalist parties have won seats, compared to 2012 — Wilders’s party has gained seats, as has a new party, the Forum for Democracy — but their electorate is stable, it has not grown,” Mr. Bovens said.

Mr. Bovens pointed out that an earlier populist movement led by the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn had won 26 seats in 2002, and that Mr. Wilders’s won 24 seats in 2010. If Mr. Wilders’s party rises to 20 seats, as the early returns seemed to indicate, it will still be lower than the previous high-water marks.

“And some of the traditional parties have moved in a more nationalistic direction, taking a bit of wind out of his sails,” he said. “You see the same strategy in Germany.”

The German governing coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is facing a stiff election challenge of its own this year, was clearly buoyed by the Dutch result, its foreign ministry sending a warmly enthusiastic message via Twitter.

“Large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European populists. That’s good news. We need you for a strong #Europe!” it read.

In the Netherlands’s extremely fractured system of proportional representation — 28 parties ran and 13 are likely to have positions in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — the results were, not atypically, something of a dog’s breakfast.

Mr. Rutte’s party lost seats, even as it came out on top, and will need to join forces with several others in order to wield power. Virtually all parties said they would not work with Mr. Wilders in a coalition — so toxic he remains — though his positions are likely to infuse parliamentary debate.

“Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, and indeed his anti-immigrant message, which dominated much of the campaign, was not likely to go away.

It came into particularly sharp relief on the eve of the election, when Turkey’s foreign minister sought to enter the Netherlands to rally support among Turks in Rotterdam for a referendum to increase the power of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dutch officials refused him landing rights.

Mr. Wilders, who has seemed to relish being called the “Dutch Donald Trump,” has been so extreme that some appear to have thought twice about supporting him.

He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” which the Netherlands banned, and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools.

Election turnout was high, with polling places seeing a steady stream of voters from early morning until the polls closed at 9 p.m. Of the 12.9 million Dutch citizens eligible to cast ballots, more than 80 percent voted.

Some polling places ran out of ballots and called for additional ones to be delivered. There were so many candidates listed that the ballots were as voluminous as bath towels and had to be folded many times over to fit into the ballot box.

The percentage of the vote that a party receives translates into the number of seats it will get in Parliament. If a party gets 10 percent of the total votes, it gets 10 percent of seats in the 150-seat Parliament, given to its first 15 candidates listed on the ballot.

The election was a success for the left-leaning Green Party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, a relative political newcomer, whose leadership at least tripled the party’s seats, making it the fifth-place finisher and potentially a part of the government.

Mr. Klaver ran specifically on an anti-populist platform and worked hard to turn out first-time voters.

“In these elections there was an overwhelming attention from the foreign press, which is understandable because Brexit happened and Trump was elected, and because France, Germany and maybe Italy will be holding elections,” Mr. Klaver said. “They asked us: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?”

The crowd shouted: “No.”

“That is the answer that we have for the whole of Europe: Populism did not break through,” Mr. Klaver said.

Another striking development was the first-time election of former Labor Party members, all three of Turkish background, who formed a new party, Denk (which means “think”). It will be the only ethnic party in the Dutch Parliament and is a reminder that Turks are the largest immigrant community in the Netherlands. There are roughly 400,000 first, second, or third-generation Turkish immigrants in the nation.

The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats.

In past elections the impact of extremist right-leaning parties has been largely blunted by a political system that for more than a century has resulted in governance by coalition.

This year’s election may give the Netherlands its most fragmented government in history. Some political analysts believe it could take weeks or months to form a government and that the governing coalition will be fragile.

In Belgium, which has a similar political system as the Netherlands, it famously took nearly a year and a half after inconclusive elections in June 2010 to form a government.

Milan Schreuer and Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

Sacred Lunacy Manifested

March 16, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

At the present moment, the Israeli government is pressuring President Trump to launch two destructive attacks in the Middle East. One is against Iran who just might be making atomic weapons that could vaporize Sacred Israel and the other is against southern Lebanon to obliterate tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets that also might vaporize Sacred Israel.

It does not matter, of course, how many Americans might die in this process or what kind of domestic terror might be unleashed against the continental United States as long as Israel is made safe.

All of these postulations contain a great deal of logic and, no doubt, truth, but the real reason for the projected savagery is based upon one word and one word only.

That word is not ‘oil’ or ‘Israel’ but Parousia.

Parousia refers to the Second Coming of Christ as understood by the Christian Pentecostal sect to which President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft and very influential numbers of his personal suite belong.

This second coming assumes a first coming (here, the facts are not in evidence ) but the fixation on bringing about the latter appearance is intense and determined.

It is the belief of Pentecostals that when certain conditions are met, Jesus Christ will return to earth, take his elect (the Pentecostals) physically to Paradise in an event known as Rapture. Those not belonging to the Pentecostal elect will have to remain behind for Satan to deal with.

When Parousia happens, there will be a great battle fought at Armageddon between the forces of Jesus and the Devil and his antichrist and Jesus, quite naturally, will be triumphant.

All of this, the Pentecostals assure their membership, can be found in the book of Revelation.

Unfortunately for this interesting thesis, the struggle between good and evil at Armageddon is not found in the book of Revelations. Revelations 16:16 only mentions the name of the long-forgotten town but there is nothing about an epic struggle mentioned anywhere else other than twisted interpretations in cult literature.

This strange book was allegedly written by St. John the Devine, a disciple of Jesus when, in fact is believed by most reputable Biblical scholars to have been written by a certain John of Patmos who lived many years after the period ascribed to Christ’s ministry.

John of Patmos was a hermit/monk on the Greek island of Patmos and contemporary historical reference briefly dismisses him as a lunatic. No one has been able to understand a word of what he wrote, and his confused and mystic writings easily lends themselves to all manner of interpretations by various dimwitted and obsessed religious fanatics.

When Martin Luther prepared the Protestant Bible, he discarded Revelations, and other books then found in the Bible, as being ‘unworthy and filled with nonsense.’

The Second Coming has as one of its primary requirements that a Jewish nation must be reestablished in Palestine (which it was in 1948) and, even more important, that the great Jewish temple of Solomon must be rebuilt before Christ can return to earth and elevate his elect.

The first temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians and the more elegant second, by the Romans when they crushed the Jewish revolt in the first century.

Unfortunately for the Pentecostals, the former site of this temple is now occupied by the much-revered Muslim Dome of the Rock mosque.

The Jewish temple cannot be rebuilt, therefore, as long as the Muslim mosque occupies its space and therefore, it would be necessary to destroy this very holy building and replace it with a new edifice of another religion.

However, if this lunatic act were consummated , there would be an immediate and terrible rising in the Muslim world and a savage religious war would burst forth on an already-ravaged Middle East.

The Pentecostals are, by their very nature, uncaring and fierce fanatics and such a war would, to them, be a fulfillment of the spurious prophecy of the manic Revelation’s non-existent Battle of Armageddon.

Already we can hear comments from prominent Pentecostals that the Muslims are the forces of the anti-Christ and must therefore be engaged by the forces of Jesus in a final hecatomb of blood and destruction. This pending bloodbath means nothing to Pentecostals because, according to their beliefs, they will be safe in Paradise and those left behind are of no consequence

These God-intoxicated fanatics actually believe in their patchwork fictions.

In the face of all reason and logic, they are pushing a suicidal, hidden agenda that will have terrible consequences for everyone concerned.

In light of this, perhaps it is now far easier to understand what really stands behind the Administration’s apparent fierce determination to invade a shattered and disorganized Iraq while studiously ignoring a very real danger from North Korea’s declared intentions of building nuclear weapons.

After all, North Korea is not mentioned in Pentecostal dogma and there would be no Parousia because of a terrible nuclear war launched by that country.

In spite of the large amount of learned dissertations on the underlying motives for the proto-fascist war hysteria, one should note that the simplest answer to a complex problem is always the correct one.

Jesus is quoted as saying that he did not come to “bring Peace but a Sword,” and this seems to be the real motivation of his more deranged followers.

What do Pentecostals believe about the “End Days” and the “Antichrist?”

The Antichrist is described by Pentecostals as the “son of perdition” and the “beast”!

They claim that this interesting creature will have great charisma & speaking ability, “a mouth speaking great things”.

The Antichrist, they allege, will rise to power on a wave of world euphoria, as he temporarily saves the world from its desperate economic, military & political problems with a brilliant seven year plan for world peace, economic stability and religious freedom.

The Antichrist could well rise out of the current chaos in the former Soviet Union. The prophet Ezekiel names him as the ruler of “Magog”, a name that Biblical scholars agree denotes a country or region of peoples to the north of Israel. Many have interpreted this to mean modern day Russia. It could also be Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, perhaps one of the Baltic States or even the lewd and dissolute Socialist Sweden.

His power base will include the leading nations of Europe, whose leaders, the Bible says, will “give their power & strength unto the beast.”

The Bible even gives some clues about his personal characteristics. The prophet Daniel wrote that the Antichrist “does not regard the desire of women.” This could imply that he is either celibate or a homosexual. Daniel also tells us that he will have a “fierce countenance” or stern look, and will be “more stout than his fellows”–more proud and boastful.

Unfortunately, the so-called Book of Daniel was written during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, not many decades earlier as its proponents claim, and has been extensively modified by early Christian writers to predict the arrival of their personal Messiah, or Christ, on the Judean scene. The so-called “wonderful” prophetic statements put into the mouth of Daniel are absolutely and wondrously accurate…up to the reign of Nero and then fall as flat as a shaken soufflé afterwards

It is well known that Pentecostals loathe homosexuals, among many other groups not pleasing to them, and would like nothing better than to shove them into a bottomless pit filled with Catholics, rock and roll fans, teenaged mothers, Communists, gun control advocates, Tarot card readers, Christian Scientists, abortionists, Wayne Newton fans, Asians, Muslims, African-Americans and Latino Surnamed Hispanics.

The seven-year peace-pact (or covenant) that is engineered by the Antichrist is spoken of a number of times in the Bible, & may even have already been signed in secret. The historic peace agreement signed between Israel and the PLO at the White House on September 13, 1993, vividly illustrates how dramatically events in the Middle East are presently moving in this direction.

Under the final terms of the Covenant, Jerusalem will likely be declared an international city to which Judaism, Islam & Christianity will have equal rights. Scripture indicates that the Jews will be permitted to rebuild their Temple on Mt. Moriah, where they revive their ancient rituals of animal sacrifice.

According to prophecy the Antichrist will not only be a master of political intrigue, but also a military genius. Daniel describes several major wars that he fights during his 7-year reign, apparently against the U.S. & Israel, who will oppose him during the second half of his reign.

For awhile, most of the world is going to think the Antichrist is wonderful, as he will seem to have solved so many of the world’s problems. But, three-and-a-half years into his seven year reign he will break the covenant & invade Israel from the North.

At this time he will make Jerusalem his world capitol and outlaw all religions, except the worship of himself and his image. The Bible says that the Antichrist will sit in the Jewish Temple exalting himself as God & demanding to be worshipped.

It is at this time that the Antichrist imposes his infamous “666” one-world credit system

It must be said that the Antichrist does, in point of fact exist. He can be seen on a daily basis on the walls of the Cathedral at Orvieto, Italy in the marvelous frescos of Lucca Signorelli. He looks somewhat like a Byzantine depiction of Christ with either a vicious wife or bad indigestion.

Pentecostals strongly believe that U.S. public schools “departed from the faith” when in 1963 the Bible and prayer were officially banned. Now, Pentecostals believe with horror, thousands of these same schools are teaching credited courses in “the doctrines of devils”–the occult and Satanism.

Even a cursory check of curriculum of a number of American public school districts does not support this claim but then the Pentecostals have stated repeatedly that they represent 45% of all Protestants in America. The actual number, excluding the Baptists, is more like 4%. And it is acknowledged by sociologists that the problem with most Baptists is they they aren’t held under water long enough.

What they lack in actual numbers they more than compensate for by their loud and irrational views so that at times it sounds like the roar of a great multitude when in truth, it is only a small dwarf with a bullhorn, trumpeting in the underbrush.

Frantic Pentecostals estimated that according to their private Census for Christ there are over 200,000 practicing witches in the United States and allege there are literally millions of Americans who dabble in some form of the occult, psychic phenomena, spiritualism, demonology and black magic. Their statistics claim that occult book sales have doubled in the last four years.

What is seen by terrified Pentecostals as The Occult today is no longer the stuff of small underground cults. They believe that many rock videos are an open worship of Satan and hell that comes complete with the symbols, liturgies, and rituals of Satanism, and the Pentecostals firmly and loudly proclaim to anyone interested in listening, that “millions of young people” have been caught in their evil sway.

Popular music is termed “sounds of horror & torment” that Pentecostals firmly believe is literally “driving young people insane and seducing them into a life of drugs, suicide, perversion & hell.” It is forgotten now but the same thing was once said about ragtime and later, jazz. If this had been true, perhaps the real reason behind the First World War, the 1929 market crash, the rise of Franklin Roosevelt and the lewd hula hoop can be attributed to Scott Joplin and Ella Fitzgerald.

It is also to be noted that the immensely popular Harry Potter series of children’s books are loudly proclaimed as Satanic books designed to lure unsuspecting children into the clutches of the Evil One. Any sane person who has read these delightful fantasy books will certainly not agree with these hysterical strictures. In point of fact, it would be exceedingly difficult to locate any person possessing even a modicum of sanity who would believe the weird fulminations of the Pentecostals.

Outraged Pentecostals now firmly state that in the beginning years of the Twenty First Century, “even the most shameless acts of blasphemy and desecration are socially acceptable.”

“Acts of blasphemy and desecration” sound like human sacrifices carried out at bus stops during the noontime rush hour or lewd acts with crucifixes performed by drug-maddened transvestites on commercial airlines.

In his weird Book of Revelation the lunatic John of Patmos claimed he foresaw that in the last days the world would turn away from God in order to worship and follow Satan.

Such a prophecy would have seemed unbelievable to previous generations, but not so in our day. Hard-core Satanism has been called “the fastest-growing subculture among America’s teens”, and the revival of witchcraft and the occult is one of the World’s fastest growing religions!







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