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TBR News March 27, 2019

Mar 27 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. March 27, 2019: Waiting to Happen

It was in the Spring of 2001 when a young computer expert living in the Mid-West developed a lethal virus intended to do a full-bore global destruction to the international computer/internet system.

The virus is spread from computer to computer system to computer and it is so constructed that it cannot be searched out by any known computer security system. The virus remains placidly dormant until it is triggered and then after a specific lapse of time, is fully activated.

What does this virus do?

Totally obliterates the computer hard drive and expunges it of all memory.

In essence, the hard drive is flat line and cannot be reconstructed.

What sort of a trigger would activate this?

Perhaps a first, middle and last name coupled with a fake social security number.

The probability of this trigger accidentally emerging would be a mathematical impossibility.

Let us say that this was triggered on the computer system of a major bank.

When the activating time arrived, everything on the bank computer would be gone. No one could access the ATM machine, cash checks, or otherwise have access to the bank’s services.

There would be mass panic and the bank’s computer people would install backup systems.

After a frenzied flurry, all would return to normal, that is until the activated triggers would work again.

Official records, social security, food stamps, passport data, criminal rap sheets, and dozens and dozens more of vital services would, in essence, be gone with the wind.

And since this project has been silently contaminating the global systems since 2001, the length and depth of the infections would be immense and all-inclusive.

Of course the Russians would be blamed but the computers would be as dead as a squashed cockroach and the entire societal global informational and business structures would gasp, gurgle and die.

People could not buy food, electrical systems would fail and soon, the woodlands of America, and the world, would be filled with frantic citizens digging caves in the soil, or places to bury their surviving family members.

The motto?

Never put all your eggs in one basket.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Second Wisconsin judge blocks Republican-backed laws curbing Democratic governor’s powers
  • Trump and the Numbers Game
  • Despite report findings, almost half of Americans think Trump colluded with Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll
  • 75 years on from D-Day, is it time Germany liberated itself from the US?
  • Mueller could never have saved us from Trump. That’s what politics is for
  • Afghanistan Wars: Drugs for Fun and Profit
  • America’s energy capital became a battleground over a Russian pipeline to Germany this week
  • Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is 70 percent complete
  • US Crude Oil Imports by Supplier Countries
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • How to sell a massacre: NRA’s playbook revealed

 

Second Wisconsin judge blocks Republican-backed laws curbing Democratic governor’s powers

March 26, 2018

by Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A Wisconsin judge on Tuesday blocked several laws passed by Republican state lawmakers during a December lame-duck session intended to curb the powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers, the second such ruling in the past week.

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction on legislation that requires lawmakers to approve discontinuing or settling lawsuits by the attorney general, allows them to dictate how governmental documents are written and gives them the ability to halt state rules written by Evers, court documents showed.

Remington said in his ruling that the labor unions that brought the lawsuit were likely to succeed in showing the laws violate the separation of powers provision in the state constitution.

It was the second ruling against the series of statutes passed in the last days of former Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration. Democrats had criticized the legislation as a last-minute power grab.

“It is now abundantly clear that the lame-duck session was nothing more than an illegal power grab intended to override the will of the people,” Evers said after the ruling on Tuesday.

Remington did not issue a temporary injunction on laws that allow lawmakers to intervene in legal challenges to state statutes and new enterprise zones.

Republican legislative leaders said they would appeal Remington’s ruling.

“It’s encouraging to see the court ruling in our favor on elements of this case. However, all of the Legislature’s actions are consistent with the separation of powers that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld for decades,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a joint statement.

Last Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess issued a temporary injunction stopping the laws from taking effect as part of a lawsuit filed by several left-leaning groups.

Niess said the legislature’s use of an “extraordinary session” was not explicitly permitted under the state constitution.

After that ruling, the governor immediately moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit that seeks to overturn the Obamacare healthcare law, the signature domestic achievement of former Democratic President Barack Obama and a longtime target of Republicans, including President Donald Trump.

One of the statutes passed in December had prevented Evers from pulling out of the lawsuit absent legislative approval.

Several other lawsuits have been filed challenging the lame-duck legislation.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney

 

Trump and the Numbers Game

There were 56.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2015, accounting for 17.6% of the total U.S. population.

The Hispanic Mexican population of the United States is projected to grow to 107 million by 2065.

The share of the U.S. population that is Hispanic has been steadily rising over the past half century. In 2015, Hispanics made up 17.6% of the total U.S. population, up from 3.5% in 1960, the origins of the nation’s Hispanic population have diversified as growing numbers of immigrants from other Latin American nations and Puerto Rico settled in the U.S.

For example, between 1930 and 1980, Hispanics from places other than Mexico nearly doubled their representation among U.S. Hispanics, from 22.4% to 40.6%. But with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s, the Mexican share among Hispanics grew, rising to a recent peak of 65.7%.

California has the largest legal poplation of Mexicans, 14,013,719. And  California is also home to almost 25% of the country’s undocumented population. California is followed by Texas where 31.14%,(8,500,000) are Mexican, Florida has 4,223,806 Mexicans, Illinois 2,153,000, Arizona,1,895,149, Colorado, 1,136,000 Georgia, 923,000, North Carolina, 890,000, and Washington, 858,000 Mexicans.

Given the fact that President Trump has strong personal dislikes for both Blacks and Latinos, manifest in his recent vicious treatment of Mexican immigrants in their legal attempts to immigrate to the United States, the sheer number of Mexicans now resident in the United States ought to give him, and his far-right Republican Congressional supporters serious pause in their denial of entrance for legal immigrant attempts and the subsequent brutal maltreatment of small children of these immigrants.

If the Mexican voting population of the United States were to organize, like the recent organizing of the black voting population of Alabma in opposition to the fanatical Judge Moore, the results in the November elections could well prove to be a stunning disaster for both Trump and the Republicans.

Numbers certainly count but Trump is obviously unaware of their potential danger, both to him and his right-wing radical supporters.

Despite report findings, almost half of Americans think Trump colluded with Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll

March 26, 2019

by Chris Kahn

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nearly half of all Americans still believe President Donald Trump worked with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared Trump of that allegation.

Americans did feel slightly more positive about Trump after learning the findings of the 22-month investigation into Russian meddling in the election, the national opinion poll released on Tuesday showed.

But U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s investigation did little to change public opinion about the president’s alleged ties to Russia or quench the public’s appetite to learn more.

According to Barr’s summary released on Sunday, Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 election, but did not exonerate the president on the question of obstructing the investigation.

When asked specifically about accusations of collusion and obstruction of justice, 48 percent of poll respondents said they believed “Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” down 6 percentage points from last week.

Fifty-three percent said “Trump tried to stop investigations into Russian influence on his administration,” down 2 points from last week.

Public opinion was split sharply along party lines, with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to believe that Trump colluded with Russia and obstructed justice.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll measured the public reaction in the United States on Monday and Tuesday, after the report summary was released, gathering online responses from 1,003 adults, including 948 who said they had at least heard of the summary findings.

The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of its precision, of about 4 percentage points.

Trump’s approval rating got a slight boost, with 43 percent of Americans saying they approved of his performance in office, the highest he has polled so far this year and an increase of 4 percentage points compared to a similar poll last week.

Since January, the proportion of adults who approved of Trump has ranged between 37 percent and 43 percent.

Trump heralded the summary of the Mueller report as a “complete and total exoneration” and vowed to strike back with investigations of his own against unnamed political enemies who he believes are guilty of “evil” and “treasonous things.”

Democrats have called on Barr to release the full report, a position shared by a majority of poll respondents.

Among those familiar with Barr’s summary, only 9 percent said it had changed their thinking about Trump’s ties to Russia and 57 percent said they want to see the entire report.

Thirty-eight percent of all adults, including two out of three Democrats, support efforts by Democratic leaders to continue the Russia investigation in Congress, according to the poll.

The poll also found that 39 percent felt that Trump “should be impeached,” while 49 percent felt that he should not.

Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler

 

Mueller could never have saved us from Trump. That’s what politics is for

Being unfit for office is not a crime. It will be up to the American people to absorb and act on that insight

by Lawrence Douglas

The Guardian

The Mueller investigation has ended, not with a bang but with a whimper. Dispirited are those who looked forward to seeing the President removed from office first by impeachment and then in leg irons.

True, the investigation was, by many measures, a redoubtable success. It painstakingly documented Russia’s criminal meddling in our election and led to the conviction of several of the president’s closest advisers and enablers. And it hardly provided the “complete and total EXONERATION” that the president claimed in a characteristically inaccurate tweet, as the report left open whether Trump obstructed justice.

Still, for those who saw Mueller moving up the chain, closing in on the president and his family, the report – or at least what we know about it – must disappoint. Yes, Attorney General William Barr’s conclusion that Trump did not obstruct justice warrants closer scrutiny, and certainly we deserve a full release of the findings. But Barr’s conclusion – that it’s hard to prove the existence of obstruction when there was no underlying crime to obstruct – hardly seems scandalous.

How are we to make sense of the disappointment? I think the answer is that many of us were hoping that the law could deliver us from our contemporary politics, a toxic world shaped but not created by Trump himself. If in Trump’s universe, no facts are safe from distortion, the law at least holds out the promise of resting on somewhat firmer terrain. In court, the word “felony” still has a stable meaning.

And while congressional Republicans might be too craven to place restraints on the president, not so federal prosecutors and judges. And so we looked to a handful of public servants, dedicated to no value higher than the preservation of the rule of law and the impartial administration of justice, as our saviors.

The Mueller investigation lulled us, then, into hoping that Trump’s essential unfitness for office would find objective confirmation by our system of criminal justice. By pinning our hopes on Mr Mueller, we were hoping for legal corroboration of something millions take to be true – that an intemperate and unbridled liar, who never ceases to shower contempt on the most basic constitutional norms and practices of democracy, is unfit for the presidency.

The mistake, of course, was to seize on evidence of criminality as the standard by which to measure unfitness for office. For while proof of serious criminal actions may suffice to demonstrate a president’s unfitness, the opposite hardly is true: absence of clear criminality hardly resolves the question of fitness.

The idea that the law could have saved us from what ultimately must be a political judgment was perhaps always naïve. The president had already made sure that among his fervent supporters, no member of his justice department or even federal judge of his own picking could be trusted not to be part of the witch hunt that made the Salem tribunals look even-handed by comparison.

Some may relish the irony of the president citing a report he claimed tainted to the core as proof of his complete innocence. All the same, trying to score points by demonstrating the president’s lack of consistency is an exercise in futility. And alas, Trump’s response to the end of the investigation – his announced intention to redouble his efforts to settle scores with his political enemies – only underscores the very unfitness that made so many see Mueller as our deliverance.

This is not to say Trump won’t one day face his legal comeuppance. The president’s former lawyer has testified that Trump violated campaign finance law, engaged in an illegal payoff and instructed him, the lawyer, to lie to congress. Federal prosecutors in New York’s Sixth District continue to investigate whether the Trump organization engaged in criminal activities such as money laundering on behalf of Russian investors. So the president is far from in the clear.

But neither is American democracy. We hoped that grave character flaws and egregious misbehavior would manifest themselves in transparent violations of law. Alas being unfit

 

Afghanistan Wars: Drugs for Fun and Profit

March 27, 2019

by Christian Jürs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we have an interesting situation.

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

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

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

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

 

75 years on from D-Day, is it time Germany liberated itself from the US?

March 27, 2019

by Neil Clark

RT

Germany is being pressurized to act against its own economic interests – and put those of US business first.

Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy leader of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), called last week for the US Ambassador to Germany to be expelled for acting like a “high commissioner of an occupying power.” And it isn’t hyperbole.

We’re coming up in a few months time to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which began the liberation of western Europe by Allied forces from the Nazis. Who would have thought that in 2019, we’d have a high ranking German politician from a party, known for its strong support of the Atlantic Alliance, calling for the American Ambassador to his country to be booted out for interfering in his country’s affairs?

Last week, Ambassador Grenell criticized Germany’s military spending plans within NATO as insufficient – echoing President Trump’s calls for European NATO members to spend more on defense.

The premise behind this is that NATO’s actions protect Europe and therefore Europeans should pay their fair share ie 2 percent of GDP. But certainly since the end of the old Cold War, NATO’s aggressive operations have actually made Europe – and Europeans – less safe.  A terrible example of this was the Islamic State terrorist attack which killed 39 European tourists including two Germans, while they were relaxing on the beach and round their hotel in Tunisia in 2015. The gunman was reported to have trained at a jihadist camp in neighboring Libya, ‘liberated’ by NATO in 2011.

German troops were not deployed directly in that action (though there was behind-the-scenes assistance) but German holidaymakers paid the blood price. We now have a jihadist’s playground on the shores of the Mediterranean, where we didn’t have one before.

While it’s true that Berlin doesn’t meet the new 2 percent NATO spending target, (as of 2018 only six member states did), Grenell seems to have overlooked the fact that Germany has been the second largest provider of troops to the Alliance’s military operations in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, no country in NATO has been so generous in taking in refugees fleeing conflicts which the US and other NATO powers have helped to ignite.

In 2016, over 50% of all asylum applications in Germany were from citizens of Iraq or Syria.

In 2018 it was reported that Germany was home to 1.4mn ‘new’ refugees. How many has the US taken in, Mr Renell?

If anything the German government should be raising its concerns to the US Ambassador that his country isn’t doing enough – and not the other way round.

It’s not just defense spending levels that Ambassador Rennell has criticized. Earlier in the month he warned the German Minister of Economic Affairs that the US was prepared to restrict intelligence sharing with Germany should Berlin allow “untrusted vendors” ie Chinese operators, to build 5G mobile networks in the country.

He also doesn’t like – and that’s putting it very mildly – Germany’s involvement in the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

This 1,200km (746 miles) long construction, which would carry gas straight from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea is good news for Russia, Germany and European consumers, who will see their gas bills lowered, but not for the US, which wants European countries to buy its more expensive LNG.

It’s also not great news for the US client state Ukraine, which loses out on transit fees.

A key reason behind the recent ratcheting up of Cold War tensions by the US has been to try and get Germany to cancel its involvement in Nord Stream 2, which is currently 70 percent complete.

In late 2018, Ambassador Grenell warned that German companies involved in Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions. The US really hates it when there’s a competitor in town. Europeans shouldn’t buy the cheapest gas, but what the US wants to sell them.

If the pressure on Germany to spend more on defense and pull out of Nord Stream 2 isn’t enough, there’s also the matter of the country’s trade with Iran. America wants everyone to follow its line on Iran, no matter how big the financial hit. To enforce this, once again there‘s been the threat of secondary sanctions.

Data last October showed that under this threat, German exports to Iran had dropped by 4% in the first 8 months of the year.

But for Washington, this still isn’t good enough. In February VP Mike Pence accused Germany (along with Britain and France) of trying to “break”  the sanctions on Iran by developing non-dollar trade. “Sadly, some of our leading European partners have not been nearly as co-operative,”said Pence, doing his best Godfather impression.

Germany has been Iran’s most important trading partner in Europe – with the value of German exports to the Islamic Republic being worth 2,358 billion Euros in the seven months from January to October 2017.

Yet Berlin is expected to sacrifice this very lucrative business at the behest of anti-Iranian hawks in Washington.

While the protracted Brexit saga is making all the headlines when it comes to European politics, arguably an even more important story is this attempt by the US to make Germany, the biggest economy in the EU, commit what can only be described as acts of great economic self-harm.

The German left has for long wanted a new, less subservient relationship with the US, but now we have German industry and capital – through its political representatives (the FDP has traditionally been the party of business), saying “enough is enough.” Will the US back-down, and allow Germany some leeway? Or imbued with its sense of manifest destiny, and a belief that it has the right to demand economic sacrifices of others that it would never make itself, will it continue to antagonize a traditional ally?

When Trump says ‘America First‘, the right cheer him, but it seems other countries allied to the US, aren’t allowed to do the same, showing that Kubicki’s imperial analogy was quite correct.

75 years after D-Day you really can’t blame Germans – and indeed other Europeans – asking the question: “Is it time to liberate ourselves from our liberators?”

 

America’s energy capital became a battleground over a Russian pipeline to Germany this week

  • Some of the tensest moments at a major energy conference in Houston were over a Russian-German natural gas pipeline.
  • The debates this week show that Germans and their counterparts in the U.S. and Poland cannot even agree on why the line is being built.
  • Berlin sees Nord Stream 2 as a purely economic project, while its opponents see it as a tool of Russian influence over Europe.

March 15,2019

by Tom DiChristopher

CNBC.com

This week Houston became the latest battleground in the international dispute over a pipeline project located more than 5,000 miles away from the Lone Star State.

The dispute over the project in question — the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany — is not new. But the debates in Houston show how intractable the issue has become, with the two sides sitting elbow to elbow and unable to even agree on why the project is being built.

From Germany’s perspective, Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial endeavor that will double the volume of Russian gas flowing to its north shore on the Black Sea. To the United States and some European countries, it’s a political tool to extend Russian influence over Europe.

The debate has taken on urgency following clashes between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait, a move in the European Union to delay Nord Stream 2 through legislation and persistent threats by the U.S to sanction companies involved in the project.

“It’s clear. This is Germany giving the Russians money while others are defending them,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC at CERAWeek, apparently evoking the administration’s complaints that Berlin is not contributing enough to NATO.

The panels on Nord Stream 2 at CERAWeek were generally more diplomatic, but the stakeholders nevertheless appeared exasperated with the stand-off, with tempers threatening to boil over at points.

“This focus on Nord Stream — I find it totally out of proportion,” Emily Haber, Germany Ambassador to the U.S., said at the apex of a tense exchange with American and Polish counterparts on Thursday.

Haber acknowledged that Nord Stream 2 has become political since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014. But she insisted it was an economic project first and foremost.

“It was not pursued by the state. It was pursued by companies, and it had economic advantages because that’s what companies like,” she said.

U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette pushed back on that claim. The Russian partner Gazprom is state-controlled and initiated the project on behalf of Moscow, he said.

“This is not purely a private project for the development of energy,” he said. “And so what are the motives for doing that? If it’s a government driven exercise, you have to look at… geopolitics and the particular governments involved.”

Russia’s motives for building Nord Stream 2 and another pipeline called Turkstream are clear, according to Amos Hochstein, a former special envoy for international energy under President Barack Obama who now sits on the supervisory board for Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz. Moscow wants to circumvent the Ukrainian pipeline system, depriving its regional rival of valuable transit fees and making it easier fo the Kremlin to pressure its neighbors.

“If you have a piece of infrastructure that works, you rarely see somebody saying, ‘Hey, it works. Let’s go and finance billions of dollars worth of a different piece of infrastructure to accomplish a very similar goal, which is to get a molecule of gas from Russia into Europe,'” Hochstein said during a separate panel on Wednesday.

“So that is what’s on the table at the moment, a non-commercial project that serves a political goal.”

That viewpoint ignores major changes in Russian gas supply, said Thilo Wieland, an executive who oversees Russian exploration and production at Wintershall, a German oil and gas company co-financing Nord Stream 2.

Russia’s main source of gas is moving north as the country taps the Yamal Peninsula, he said. Piping these new supply sources through Nord Stream 2 is quicker, more efficient and gives Europe another transportation option, he claimed.

“You need infrastructure if you want to have a functioning market. You need to have abundant supply, and I think the European Union has done a lot in the past to really create a liberalized market which is defined by non-discriminatory access for everybody,” Wieland said on Wednesday.

Germany sees the issue through the same lens, Haber said. Berlin believes energy security hinges on having transportation options and does not necessarily depend on where the gas comes from.

But even on this basic definition of energy security, the officials could not agree.

“If we have a lot of infrastructure, but we know that the gas is coming from the same place, in fact it does not change anything. We are still dependent on one supply,” Tomasz Dabrowski, deputy energy minister for Poland said at the Thursday panel.

The lack of consensus and tension at the Thursday panel prompted IHS Markit senior vice president and seasoned statesman Carlos Pascual to briefly switch roles from moderator to diplomat.

Pascual, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine, urged the officials to consider the possibility that Nord Stream is at its heart both a commercial and political project. He also noted that Ukraine will face pressure from liquefied natural gas imports into Europe, flows from the Caspian Sea and perhaps supplies from Mediterranean fields currently being explored.

He urged the officials not to lose sight of the broader issue: What is the joint European-U.S. policy towards Russia for addressing its behavior in Ukraine?

“Sometimes if we end up getting caught in individual pieces of that discussion without putting them in the broader context, it can end up becoming sometimes a little bit more difficult,” he said.

Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is 70 percent complete

March 2, 2019

RT

More than 800km of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has already been laid under the Baltic Sea, the project’s operator announced. The gas pipeline is scheduled to be fully finished by the end of this year.

Some 400km of pipes along the 1,200km route were laid along the seabed since the beginning of the year. In January, the Nord Stream 2 operator reported that 400km of the line had been completed by the end of 2018.

“We have a complex, non-linear schedule for laying the twin Nord Stream 2 pipelines, taking into account the environmental requirements and using a large number of vessels for the implementation of various activities,” Nord Stream 2’s Chief Project Officer Henning Kothe said on Friday. He added that the works are progressing according to the schedule, which will the gas pipeline completed by the end of 2019 as the company earlier promised.

Over 1,000 people are currently working on some 20 vessels for the project in the Baltic Sea. However, the heavy lift and pipelay vessel ‘Pioneering Spirit,’ the world’s largest of its kind, will temporarily be used in another project in the North Sea. The construction vessel is set to continue laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in around one month.

The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is set to run from Russia to Germany to deliver Russian natural gas to European consumers. It is expected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 110 billion cubic meters.

Earlier this week, a poll conducted on the YouGov platform and published by German media showed that a majority of Germans support the project. Some 56 percent of 2,058 participants voted in favor of the pipeline, while only 16 percent said they were against the construction. The remainder of respondents did not express an opinion on the matter.

The Nord Stream 2 has long attracted opposition from some European countries, especially Ukraine, which fears that Russia wants to bypass the country and deprive it of its gas transition revenues. At the same time, the US voiced criticism of the gas pipeline, saying that it will make Europe dependent from Moscow, while trying to sell more of its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its overseas partners. The claims have been repeatedly rebuffed by both Russia and Germany.

On Friday, one of Russia’s partners on the Nord Stream 2 construction, Austria’s OMV energy group, said that buying expensive American gas would hurt European companies.

“If we want to keep Europe competitive, importing overpriced American liquefied natural gas is not an option as it will not allow our industrial companies withstand competition with the US,” CEO of the company, Rayner Zele, told Neue Zurcher Zeitung outlet.

 

US Crude Oil Imports by Supplier Countries

March 13, 2019

by Daniel Workman

worlsstopexports

During 2018, the United States of America imported US$163.1 billion worth of crude oil from a total 44 countries.

The global cost for all US imported crude oil purchases fell -35.6% since 2014 but increased 17% from 2017 to 2018.

Among top trade partners, Canada furnished about two-fifths (39.5%) of America’s imported crude oil while Saudi Arabia supplied 13.4% worth. Crude oil delivered to the US from Middle Eastern nations was valued at $36.5 billion in 2018 or 22.3% of America’s worldwide total. Mideast oil delivered to America rose in value by 10.6% from 2017 to 2018 but plunged -49.4% since 2014

America’s top 15 suppliers of crude oil in 2018 generated 95.3% of US purchases from foreign markets, with over three-fifths (61.9%) of the overall cost of unprocessed petroleum originating from suppliers in Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

1.Canada: US$ 64.3 billion (39.5% of total US imported crude oil)

2.Saudi Arabia: $21.9 billion (13.4%)

3.Mexico: $14.7 billion (9.0%)

4.Iraq: $12.1 billion (7.4%)

5.Venezuela: $10.6 billion (6.5%)

6.Colombia: $6.6 billion (4.0%)

7.Nigeria: $5.1 billion (3.1%)

8.Ecuador: $4.2 billion (2.6%)

9.Brazil: $3.9 billion (2.4%)

10.Angola: $2.5 billion (1.5%)

11.Algeria: $2.2 billion (1.3%)

12.Russia: $2.1 billion (1.3%)

13.Kuwait: $1.9 billion (1.1%)

14.Norway: $1.7 billion (1.1%)

15.United Kingdom: $1.5 billion (0.9%)

 

Five among these top suppliers posted increases in the value of their crude oil exports to America since 2014, namely Algeria (up 756.7%), United Kingdom (up 258.7%), Norway (up 258.4%), Russia (up 170.3%) then Nigeria (up 88.9%).

Leading the decliners over the 5-year period were: Kuwait (down -83.5%), Venezuela (down -59.8%), Angola (down -52.7%), Saudi Arabia (down -52.5%) and Mexico (down -47.8%).

America’s leading provider Canada also experienced a significant downturn in the value of its crude oil exports to the US from 2014 to 2018, thanks to a -24.9% reduction.

The table below shows the dollar amount for crude oil sold to the US in 2018 by country. Also shown is the percentage value change for each supplier from 2017 to 2018.

 

List of US Imported Crude Oil Suppliers

 

2017-18

 

Rank –Supplier- Imported Crude (US$)

 

  1. Japan $14,000 no 2017 data
  2. Israel $151,000 no 2017 data
  3. Barbados $4 million no 2017 data
  4. Belize $13.2 million +97.5%
  5. Peru $18 million -23.8%
  6. Thailand $19.4 million -67.5%
  7. Bolivia $19.4 million no 2017 data
  8. Italy $26 million no 2017 data
  9. Australia $42 million +20.4%
  10. Cameroon $49.6 million no 2017 data
  11. Vietnam $70.5 million -51.9%
  12. Brunei Darussalam $78.6 million +866.2%
  13. Tunisia $90.6 million +75.2%
  14. Côte d’Ivoire $121.3 million +241%
  15. United Arab Emirates $141.4 million -65.8%
  16. Guatemala $145.3 million +47.2%
  17. Gabon $186.2 million +80.3%
  18. Trinidad/Tobago $222.2 million +26.2%
  19. India $276.7 million +103.1%
  20. Congo $286.6 million +247%
  21. Ghana $302.8 million -31.3%
  22. Azerbaijan $426.4 million +248.1%
  23. Equatorial Guinea $462.1 million +91.5%
  24. Egypt $471.9 million +183.5%
  25. Chad $486 million -8.4%
  26. Kazakhstan $582.3 million no 2017 data
  27. Argentina $747.3 million +10,675,571%
  28. Indonesia $1.1 billion +37.2%
  29. Libya $1.4 billion +8.5%
  30. United Kingdom $1.5 billion +190.6%
  31. Norway $1.7 billion +85.9%
  32. Kuwait $1.9 billion -33.4%
  33. Russia $2.1 billion +113.8%
  34. Algeria $2.2 billion +56.4%
  35. Angola $2.5 billion +0.3%
  36. Brazil $3.9 billion +0.3%
  37. Ecuador $4.2 billion +4.3%
  38. Nigeria $5.1 billion -21.6%
  39. Colombia $6.6 billion -1%
  40. Venezuela $10.6 billion –
  41. Iraq $12.1 billion +8.7%
  42. Mexico $14.7 billion +43%
  43. Saudi Arabia $21.9 billion +20.3%
  44. Canada $64.3 billion +20.7%

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

March 27, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation No. 50

Date, Friday, November 29, 1996

Commenced: 11:20 AM CST

Concluded: 11:55 AM CST

GD: How are you doing today, Robert?

RTC: Had a bad night, Gregory. Couldn’t get to sleep and then dozed off about five. Not a good night.

GD: Take sleeping pills?

RTC: I don’t like to start with things like that. You can get addicted to them so I just put up with it and I will take a nap after lunch. That will help. How are you today?

GD: I’m OK. Been working on the latest Müller book and I got bogged down. When that happens, you have to just stop everything and walk away for a while.

RTC: How is the book coming?

GD: Making it, Robert. Publisher tells me the first book is doing very well.

RTC: Any negative comments?

GD: Not to him.

RTC: Oh, there are some unhappy people back here. The rumors are out that you might do another book so I would be careful talking about its contents to anyone.

GD: Corson and Kimmel have been very interested.

RTC: That’s what I mean. Don’t tell either one of them a damned word.

GD: No, the more curious people get, the less I say. I know Tom is with the FBI so, naturally, I only engage in light conversations with him and Bill is too curious to suit me.

RTC: Bill like to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, if you follow me.

GD: Yes. Typical.

RTC: Müller died in ’83, didn’t he?

GD: Yes. Buried in Oakland.

RTC: Buried under his Company name?

GD: No, his real one.

RTC: He sold paintings for us, as I remember.

GD: Oh, yes he did. Your people took over looted Nazi art from the Army after the war and then you know what happened to it.

RTC: Yes, of course. We sold it for profit and if we had any trouble with previous owners, we simply terminated them. Mostly hysterical Jews screaming about this or that but eventually, they were dealt with and business went on.

GD: Heini told me he took in millions.

RTC: Oh, yes, he did. Some of it we used for off the books operations, like snuffing Diem and other nasty businesses and the rest ended up in private hands, let us say.

GD: Well, I recall the beautiful Raphael hanging up in Heini’s office. A fruity looking fellow in a white shirt. It apparently came from a collection in Warsaw along with a Leonardo. The Leonardo was found and sent back but the Raphael ended up with the Gestapo and Heini hid it and later went back for it. Of course he could never sell it but it looked so nice in his home. I can imagine the howls of rage if the Polacks found out about it.

RTC: Yes, indeed. God, how many such scenes we had to take care of.

GD: Terminate with extreme prejudice?

RTC: No, that term is used for in-house problems. Like the unfortunate fellow who shot himself in the back of the head and jumped off his little boat with weights on his feet. Things like that.

GD: And Olson?

RTC: Well, he was potential trouble so he did a full gainer out of a hotel window. It wasn’t the long fall that did him in, Gregory, but that sudden stop at the bottom.

GD: Müller told me about that. He said unwanted people like Forrestal rained down all over Washington until he introduced the heart attack drug. He used to feel sorry for people down below. I mean, some woman taking mail to the corner box gets an unwanted individual landing on top of her. Or imagine someone just bought a new Packard and there is a huge mess on their crushed roof and brains splattered all over the rest of the car. No, Heini was right about the heart attacks. Much more plausible and certainly less messy.

RTC: I agree.

GD: Diem?

RTC: Oh that business. I was on the inside with that one. What a mess but typical. Diem and his brother ran Vietnam and were trying to kill off the Buddhists. Kennedy had no idea what was going on over there and was waffling about pouring American troops into the country. The Diem family were crooked as hell and very, very nasty and demanding. Thee were two camps here, Gregory. The first one wanted a major effort there to stop Communism dead in its tracks and the other felt that such actions would become a bottomless pit.

GD: In the event, they were right.

RTC: Yes, but that is now, based on hindsight, but at the time, no one knew just what to do. We were technically only advising Diem. We had a deal with the French, at least the Company did, to support any régime that would protect their interest there. Lots of rubber and there was also untapped oil fields offshore. Jack was an idealist at times and got pulled this way and that. I mean we felt that a strong military presence there was good. We could use that country as a base of operations to expand into Laos and other areas but we had to act like we were supporting the democratic movements in Saigon. Diem was a vicious dictator and was surrounded with totally corrupt officials so he was not a good image for us. After we talked about it somewhat, it was decided to get rid of him and his brother and put in new people. We talked with dissident generals and pretty well set up a putsch. The idea was not to run him out of the country but to kill both of them and set an example for others.

GD: Was Kennedy in on it?

RTC: OF course, he knew in advance. We tarted it up and he went for it. But kept waffling this way and that so we just told the generals to go ahead. They grabbed the two of them and chopped them both up with bayonets in the back on an armored car. I personally told our people there that it ought to be done and the bodies tossed out on the street as an example to others.

GD: Admiral Byng.

RTC: Yes, just so. Kennedy was presented with a fiat and went along.

GD: And what about the usual Congressional investigations?

RTC: We did what we always do, Gregory. Private talks with key people on the hill and the whole thing is rigged from the beginning.

GD: You told them the truth?

RTC: Oh, be a realist here. Of course not. We lie to Congress and the White House every day. We know so much about all of them, just like old Hoover did, that they shut up and we have our people at the New York Times write things up the way we wish. And then the public goes off and watches a football game and opens another beer.

GD: Could any of this ever get out?

RTC: No. Say some gung ho reporter wants to do a story on how we killed Diem or something else like that. We would hear about it at once because we have our people in all the major papers and television offices so we would get the word right away. The usual drill is to call up the editor and have a talk with him and the reporter gets assigned to inspect whale shit somewhere.

GD: And if he gets too curious or won’t give up?

RTC: There’s always the heart attack or the road accident.

GD: Of falling out of the window.

RTC: Not much of that anymore. As you say, too messy.

GD: Heini used to off them and then turn up the heat in their house until they got really ripe.

RTC: Not personally?

GD: No, he used Arno to off people. Arno is a real jewel. He’s a Lutheran minister at the present time but Heini told me once that Arno loved the knife and some of his victims looked like something Picasso would have painted

RTC: (Laughter) Yes, well, we had some of those too.

GD: I recall the Diem business. That was the turning point over there. The hawks won out.

RTC: What a mess that was, Gregory. Now mind you, I felt that Diem just would not listen to us and was causing such bad publicity here by his undemocratic behavior that I really don’t think we had much of a choice. Kennedy was a twit and proved to be so unreliable in the business that we eventually decided he had to go too. Johnson would do what he was told but Kennedy was as independent as a hog on ice so onto the face of the fifty cent piece and into the hearts of all Americans. You won’t find Johnson on a coin but he put plenty of them into his pocket. Give me the crook over the idealist any time.

GD: I agree. Anyway, I am writing the art business up for the new book. They never took anything really big but all the small stuff fell through the cracks. Müller used to call it degenerate filth and that Hitler was right about it but I notice he never burnt any of the Klees or Picassos. You can get money for all of that and I find that money has such a soothing effect, Robert.

RTC: Yes, I believe it does. It is the root of all evil, after all.

GD: No, the actual Biblical quotation is that the love of money is the root of all evil.

RTC: One or the other.

(Concluded at 11:55 AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

How to sell a massacre: NRA’s playbook revealed

Three-year undercover sting reveals how US’ National Rifle Association handles public opinion after deadly gun attacks.

March 26, 2019

by Peter Charley

Al-Jazeera

Sydney, Australia – How should you respond to a deadly mass shooting if you are a gun rights advocate?

First, “Say nothing.” If media queries persist, go on the “offence, offence, offence”. Smear gun-control groups. “Shame them” with statements such as – “How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?”

This was the advice the US’s most powerful gun lobby gave Australia’s One Nation party, according to an Al Jazeera investigation, when representatives of the Australian far-right group sought guidance from the National Rifle Association (NRA) on loosening the Pacific country’s strict gun laws.

The NRA’s playbook on mass shootings came to light during the course of a three-year undercover sting by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit. Rodger Muller, an Australian undercover reporter who infiltrated the gun lobbies in the US and Australia, used a hidden camera to record a series of meetings between representatives of the NRA and One Nation in Washington, DC in September last year.

The secretly filmed footage provides a rare inside view of how the NRA deliberates over mass shootings and seeks to manipulate media coverage to push its pro-gun agenda.

Australia’s One Nation party, led by Senator Pauline Hanson, has long sought to relax the country’s gun laws, which ban almost all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

The rules, some of the toughest in the world, were introduced in 1996 after a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle killed 35 people in the town of Port Arthur.

Since then, Australia has had no mass shootings where the attackers did not know their victims. However, the NRA has denounced Australia’s laws as “not the definition of common sense”.

‘The graves of those children’

Muller, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter who posed as a gun-rights campaigner, introduced One Nation’s Chief of Staff, James Ashby, and the leader of its Queensland branch, Steve Dickson, to the NRA, and travelled with the pair to Washington, DC last year.

Ashby and Dickson were hoping to secure up to $20m in political donations from supporters of the US gun lobby.

In meetings at the NRA’s Virginia headquarters, officials provided Ashby and Dickson tips to galvanise public support to change Australia’s gun laws and coached the pair on how to respond to a mass shooting.

The best method to handle media inquiries in the wake of a massacre was to “say nothing”, according to Catherine Mortensen, an NRA media liaison officer. But if inquiries persisted, she recommended an offensive communications strategy.

That included deflecting public concern by smearing supporters of gun control.

“Just shame them to the whole idea,” said Lars Dalseide, another member of the NRA’s public relations team. “If your policy, isn’t good enough to stand on itself, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward. How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?”

Dickson responded: “I love that, thank you”.

Then, explaining how the NRA manipulated media coverage, Dalseide told One Nation to enlist the services of friendly reporters.

“You have somebody who leans to your side that worked at a newspaper, maybe he was covering city hall or was a crime reporter,” Dalseide said.

“We want to print up stories about people who were robbed, had their home invaded, were beaten or whatever it might be and that could have been helped had they had a gun. And that’s going to be the angle on your stories. That’s what he’s got to write. He’s got to put out two to five of those a week.”

‘Outrage of the week’

Another NRA tip was to ghost-write columns for pro-gun law enforcement officials.

“We pitch guest columns in the local papers,” said Mortensen.

“A lot of the times, we’ll write them for like a local sheriff in Wisconsin or whatever. And he’ll draft it or she will help us draft it. We’ll do a lot of the legwork because these people are busy. And this is our job. So, we’ll help them and they’ll submit it with their name on it so that it looks organic. You know, that it’s coming from that community. But we will have a role behind the scenes.”

As for social media, the NRA recommended producing short videos that highlight how useful a gun is for self-defence.

“These are hugely popular and they’re short little snippets. You know, ‘Joe Blow’, cashier at the local convenience store, had his firearm with him and protected himself,” said Mortensen.

“Those are good because they’re short and they kind of get you outraged. We call it like ‘the outrage of the week’.”

During the same meeting, Dickson told the NRA that “African gangs imported to Australia” were committing rape and burglary in the country, including “coming into the house with baseball bats to steal your car”.

To that, Dalseide advised the following: “Every time there’s a story there about the African gangs coming in with baseball bats, a little thing you can put out there, maybe at the top of a tweet or Facebook post or whatever, like with ‘not allowed to defend their home’, ‘not allowed to defend their home’. Boom.”

The NRA officials named in this report, One Nation, Dickson and Ashby did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

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