TBR News November 25, 2017

Nov 25 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 24, 2017: ”Coming upon us we have the unedifying spectacle of newly-rich American businessmen pushing themselves forward as candidates for the Oval Office. They have made so much money and are so used to getting their feet kissed by their employees that they actually believe they are important people. Jeff Besos now owns the tottering Washington Post and wants all the few subscribers left on their rolls to know his very important views and Mark Zuckerberg owns Facebook and feels that with as many subscribers as this firm has, he can easily sway a nomination, or an election, in his favor. Pride indeed goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction! And an ancient George Soros thinks that he can have is own way by spending money. When the Roman Empire ended up on the auction block and rich businessmen bought the title of Caesar, the days of that Empire were indeed numbered!”

Table of Contents

  • The New Information War: How Social Media Is Leveling the Playing Field Between Governments, Militants, and Ordinary People
  • An American Spy Base Hidden in Australia’s Outback
  • Soros sheltering $18bn that American tax authorities can never touch
  • Gunmen in Egypt mosque attack carried Islamic State flag, prosecutor says
  • Egypt targets militants following Sinai attack
  • Who are the Sufis associated with the mosque attacked in Egypt?
  • Europe at Its Ugliest: The Refugee Scandal on the Island of Lesbos
  • Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves
  • Lies for Fun and Profit!


The New Information War: How Social Media Is Leveling the Playing Field Between Governments, Militants, and Ordinary People

November 25 2017

by Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept

Decades before smartphones, the internet, and social media, the philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who worked on media theory, predicted a future world war fought using information. While World War I and World War II were waged using armies and mobilized economies, “World War III [will be] a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” McLuhan said, a prophecy included in his 1970 book of reflections, “Culture Is Our Business.”

McLuhan’s prediction may have felt outlandish in his own era, but it seems very close to our present-day reality. Decades ago, the barriers to entry for broadcasting and publishing were so high that only established institutions could meaningfully engage in news dissemination. But over the past 10 to 15 years, ordinary individuals have been radically empowered with the ability to record, publish, and broadcast information to millions around the world, at minimal cost.

The revolutionary impact of this new information environment — where any individual or network of individuals can create their own mini-CNN — is transforming our societies. The loss of gatekeeping authority held by legacy media institutions has opened up opportunities for long-suppressed groups to have their narratives heard: Palestinians, African-American activists, feminists, environmentalists, and dissident groups working in authoritarian societies can all find ways, not always without some trouble, to be heard.

This new media landscape, though, also created a world susceptible to unprecedented levels of propaganda, conspiracy, and disinformation. The epistemological chaos created by the global explosion of “news,” some of it of questionable veracity, has already led to serious disruptions in both politics and daily life. But there is another area of life that might be most seriously impacted by the changing information landscape: armed conflict.

Propaganda and information warfare was once the purview of nation-states, militaries, and intelligence services. Today, even ordinary people have become important players in these campaigns. Battles over narratives and information have become an integral part of modern war and politics; the role played by bloggers, activists, and “citizen journalists” in shaping narratives has proven vital.

The examples are rapidly piling up in the second decade of the 21st century. Citizen journalists and accidental activists helped change the course of history during uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Syria, and Libya — as well as during Israel’s 2014 war against Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip. Very quickly, people who were once considered to be victims of war and great-power politics have become empowered as political actors. During Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza and the 2016 Russian aerial bombardment of the rebel-held Syrian city of Aleppo, young women and children came to international attention for their updates from war zones, helping wage battles to shape global public opinion.

Distinct from traditional information operations waged by states, the narratives of ordinary people and activists benefit from a greater sense of personal authenticity and emotional connection. This currency has always been difficult for institutions to capture, but comes naturally to individuals and activists. Social media’s ability to bypass traditional media gatekeepers also blew apart the biggest barriers to marginalized voices being heard: political and corporate control over publishing.

“Powerful institutions still exist and remain very powerful, but there is another currency that has emerged because of social media and the internet, which you might call authenticity or emotional appeal,” says Matt Sienkiewicz, an assistant professor of communication and international studies at Boston College and the author of “The Other Air Force: U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media Since 9/11.”

“Everyone focuses on the producers of media in shaping public opinion, but it’s really at the distribution level of information where the bottleneck has traditionally been,” adds Sienkiewicz. “This is what social media has fundamentally changed. There is a lot of focus on the ugly side, with respect to viral conspiracies and misinformation — but there is also reason to be optimistic, because many stories that would’ve been ignored before are now being heard.”

The emergence of online citizen journalism has also, however, increasingly blurred the distinction between participants and non-participants in conflict, as well as activists and journalists. For those lacking decent media education, discerning truth from falsehood is becoming an increasingly Sisyphean task.

Picking through the pieces of the past few years, a few writers have begun to examine the ways that social media is shaping our understanding and experience of modern conflict and politics. “War in 140 Characters,” by the journalist and author David Patrikarakos, and “Digital World War,” by Haroon Ullah, an author and former U.S. State Department official, both represent early attempts to understand the gravity of our current information crisis.

With the lines of armed conflicts’ central distinctions already being blurred — between peacetime and war, combatant and civilian — social media has the potential to draw the entire world into a gray zone where the lines between participants and non-participants in conflict is unclear. Whereas the last World War was a clearly defined clash of nation-states with uniformed armies, our new era of tech-driven information warfare holds the potential to become so amorphous and all-encompassing that it could to seep into every aspect of society, transforming the experience of both politics and war in the process.

The 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip was perhaps the first war in which social media was successfully employed as a radical levelling force by the weaker party. In previous wars between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli government’s ability to manage access to the battlefield allowed it to help shape the narrative of the war, portraying it the way that it preferred — as a fight against terrorism. But with the proliferation of smartphones and social media accounts in Gaza over the past several years, this conflict wound up being viewed very differently by a variety of observers.

As bombs rained down on Gaza neighborhoods, following a pattern that included the killing and maiming many ordinary people, Palestinians rushed to social media to share their own narrative of the war. Young men and women living in the Strip shared photos of apparent atrocities committed against civilians, alongside often emotional updates about their own experiences trying to survive the Israeli military onslaught. In previous conflicts most of these voices would never have been heard. Broadcast directly onto the global public spheres of Twitter and Facebook, however, accounts of Palestinian suffering and resistance became impossible for the world to ignore.

Writing in Middle East Eye on social media’s role in the conflict, Yousef al-Helou reflected:

Even when the power was out, citizen journalists managed to post pictures of dead bodies, destroyed neighborhoods and injured people to the outside world. Photography has always been a powerful force, but the Gaza conflict was one of the first wars to be photographed mainly by amateurs and social media platforms, allowing those images to spread far and wide at the click of a button, helping the people of Gaza win hearts and minds, and subsequently causing unprecedented outrage against Israel. In demonstrations around the world, such photos were enlarged and carried by demonstrators, demanding that their respective governments take action to halt Israel’s onslaught.

As the public outcry over the war grew, even establishment media outlets in the U.S. were forced to take note of the Palestinian experience of the conflict. In response to the growing public relations disaster caused by images of dead Gazan civilians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Hamas government in the territory of using “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause” — a statement that did little to quell rising international outrage over the civilian deaths.

In military terms, there was no real parity between the two sides. By the time the conflict ended, more than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed, compared with just 66 Israelis. The physical infrastructure of the besieged territory suffered devastating damages, with Israeli attacks crippling water and power sources to Gaza residents. Despite their advantage in brute strength, the lopsided death toll, and destruction of only one party’s territory, it’s not clear that the Israelis won the conflict. In the battle over the narrative of the war — vitally important in a conflict whose power dynamics are strongly impacted by outside actors — the Palestinians managed to win significant traction for their cause.

Instead of another case of the Israeli military attacking an amorphous group of Islamist terrorists, a counter-narrative of the conflict spread globally. In this version of events, Israel was not a democratic state waging a war of self-defense against terrorists, but a U.S.-backed military behemoth pummeling the people of an impoverished territory. The death toll seemingly proved to the world that disproportionate force was being inflicted on a weak and isolated territory.

“During Protective Edge” — the name the Israeli military gave to the campaign — “the people who suffered most were Palestinians, under siege from Israel’s superior military force,” Patrikarikos writes in his book. “This is the democratization of the wartime narrative in action, and it benefitted only one side: the Palestinians.”

During the war, no one was more emblematic of the changing power dynamics than Farah Baker, a 16-year old Palestinian girl who came to international attention for her social media updates about life in Gaza. Baker was not tied to any political group and her perspective on the war was a personal one. Yet her social media presence catapulted her to global attention and told the Palestinian story to the world in a way that resonated emotionally. It also empowered Baker as a political actor, something that she had never expected and that could never have occurred in any previous conflict.

Normally, a young teenage girl living under aerial bombardment would have been considered a bystander, at best, or a victim, at worst. But thanks to her Twitter feed, where she shared both her fears as well as her attempts to maintain normal life amid the war, Farah became an important part of the Palestinian effort to sway global opinion on the conflict.

“At only sixteen, Farah understood, even if only instinctively, the importance of social media in wartime, especially to a perpetual underdog like the Palestinians,” Patrikarikos wrote. “She understood the power that it gave to a single individual and to networks of individuals, power that previously would have been impossible.”

In Gaza, like in Syria and Ukraine, there have been instances of alleged faked suffering and atrocity spread for propaganda purposes. Here, too, social media has changed the way the conflict is perceived. Through social media’s ability to give accounts from multiple separate sources on the ground to verify information and share evidence, outside observers can better evaluate the credibility of reports from the ground.

During the Gaza conflict, the Israeli Defense Forces attempted to rebut the onslaught of Palestinian citizen journalism with their own information war, disseminating infographics and videos intended to show the Israeli side of the story. Ultimately, the Israelis were at a disadvantage. The personal authenticity of Gaza’s tech-savvy young people resonated more naturally with observing audiences than the official statements and flashy messaging released by Israeli military officials, messages that were indelibly stamped with the alienating face of a bureaucracy.

The impact of this disparity was notable. In a column in Foreign Policy following the war, entitled “On Israel’s Defeat in Gaza,” international relations scholar David Rothkopf reflected on the global impact of the scenes of mayhem that had ensued in Gaza, including images of young children being killed on a beach by Israeli military forces. “There is no Iron Dome” — a sophisticated and expensive Israeli missile defense system — “that can undo the images of suffering and destruction burned into our memories or justify away the damage to Israel’s legitimacy that comes from such wanton slaughter,” Rothkopf wrote.

While Barack Obama’s presidential administration stood by Israel during the conflict, calling for restraint from both sides, two years later, as he prepared to leave office, the U.S. took the significant step of distancing itself from Israel at the United Nations by allowing an anti-settlement resolution to pass — a rare instance of the U.S. acceding to public censure of Israeli actions. While far from a sea-change in America’s stance on the conflict, the move reflected growing dissatisfaction with Israeli actions in the United States, which, though not shared by the Trump administration, continue to be echoed by high-ranking former officials.

In her own small way, with her tweets and updates during the war, Farah Baker had played a role in shifting the narrative and forcing the world to grapple with the Palestinian narrative of the conflict.

“I don’t have the ability to carry a weapon and I would never kill anyone, so my only weapon was to broadcast the truth and to let people know what was happening here,” Baker told Patrikarakos in an interview at her Gaza home. “I was more effective than I ever imagined, because of the amount of followers I got and because so many people told me I had changed their minds [about the war] and opened their eyes.”

During the initial upsurge of enthusiasm about the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, observers noted how effectively social media had been used as an organizing tool by young activists. While it would be overstating the case to attribute the revolutions themselves to social media (as some of the more breathless analysis did at the time), the impact that online social networks, cellphones, and new satellite television stations had on mobilizing and informing people in these societies was undeniable. The idea of young people using social media to topple dictatorships played into the narrative of “tech-utopianism,” still in vogue at the time, stimulating the idea that future political changes might be organized from below through the liberating power of the internet.

The grim years that followed the initial uprisings have mostly dispelled this narrative. While liberal activists were adept at organizing online, so were political Islamists and jihadist groups. These groups were better funded, better organized, and already had experience operating clandestinely –using the latest technologies for propaganda, recruitment, and networking. Over time, it would be Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as jihadists, that moved into the vanguard of the revolutions, pushing aside the liberal activists who had initially captured the world’s imagination.

“Digital World War” is an analysis of how opposition movements, and Islamists in particular, have used social media as a tool of waging war against established governments. Haroon Ullah is a former State Department official and expert on Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islaami movement. Unlike Patrikarikos’ book, “Digital World War” is a staid academic analysis of how social media and other new technologies are altering the dynamics between central governments and opposition movements, both Islamist and liberal. But Ullah’s work also addresses the crux of how social media is upending the traditional power dynamics governing war and politics.

Perhaps the most destabilizing aspect of new technologies is the way that they have potentially supercharged the speed of political change. Youth-led revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia began and ended within a matter of weeks, toppling governments that had been in place for decades. Although both countries had suffered from long-standing structural problems, the sparks for both uprisings were lit over individual outrages – corruption and police brutality – that were spread and rapidly popularized over social media. Though many bystanders later joined the protests for other reasons, the speed and scale with which people initially organized would have been impossible in an era before cellphones and the internet.

The very speed of these movements, however, made it hard to build a sustainable order out of the collapse of the old regimes. While it was true that online mobilization played a role in toppling both Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, it also allowed little time for real leaders to emerge or for political platforms to be agreed upon. While the people who went into the streets were united in their indignation over injustice and their opposition to the old order, they had very different ideas about the future of their countries. When the regimes collapsed, the only parties established enough to take advantage were those aligned with the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.

“It was not a matter of Islam being some defining feature of Tunisian identity — despite the Islamists claims,” Ullah writes, regarding the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent election of the liberal Islamist party Ennahda, “Rather, the victory was the natural outcome of the inevitable schism between the nature of the revolution and the readiness of the Islamists for power.”

Social media is not the first information technology that has had helped galvanize revolutionary change. Radio, telegraph, and even the printing press all helped precipitate major socio-political transformations in the past, the latter famously helping enable the Christian Reformation.

More recently, the groundwork for the 1979 Iranian Revolution was laid with the help of a relatively new technology: Popular speeches by the revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were recorded and copied onto cassette tapes, which were then rapidly replicated and distributed. Unlike social media movements that can close the cycle between outrage and protest to a matter of days, however, it took Khomeini years of painstaking media work to help build mass support for an opposition movement in Iran. By the time the that Iranians finally went into the streets against the Shah – motivated by many different ideological currents – Khomeini was a well-known and popular spiritual leader within the opposition. When the monarchy fell, he was well placed to marginalize his ideological rivals and consolidate clerical power over the country.

The difference between Iran’s uprising and the leaderless revolutions of today is vast and points to one of the major pitfalls of internet activism. Online organizing and propaganda can be legitimately useful for destabilizing regimes, especially rigidly authoritarian ones that need to strictly control the flow of information. But because of the speed with which it can precipitate change, its less useful for building up the networks and organizations needed to fill the gap created when old governments actually fall.

“When there is no single leader to focus a political movement — Khomeini, Mandela, Lenin — there may be more and faster revolutions than previously, but there are fewer revolutionary outcomes and scenarios,” Ullah writes. “So when a dictatorship – by definition and decree the sole and strongest institution in a country — is deposed by insurrections like the Arab Spring, what comes into the place of the power vacuum is not dictated by those who have created it.”

In a 2007 paper titled “Of Networks and Nations,” John Arquilla, an expert of new patterns of warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School, argued that loosely-knit sets of global and regional networks, enabled by the internet, had begun to challenge the authority of nation-states in the same way that nation-states had challenged the authority of empires a century earlier.

In recent years, transnational militant groups, civil society activists, and hackers have all been able to inflict defeats on lumbering state adversaries, in part by leveraging the speed of connectivity and communication afforded by the internet. “The networks came to push, to prod, and to confront. They came to solve the supranational problems of injustice, inequity and environmental degradation that a nation-based capitalist system could never, in their view, deal with adequately,” wrote Arquilla. “In short, the networks came to change things, and they came not in peace but with swords.”

The 21st century has seen the rise of “gray-zone conflicts,” where armed force, politics, and media increasingly blur together, such as the 2014 war between Israel and the Palestinians. Gray-zone conflicts are seldom interstate wars, but are more likely to be civil uprisings, conflicts between states and militant groups, and domestic insurgences. As scholars David Barno and Nora Bensahel have written, these conflicts “involve some aggression or use of force, but in many ways their defining characteristic is ambiguity — about the ultimate objectives, the participants, whether international treaties and norms have been violated, and the role that military forces should play in response.”

It is within this ambiguous environment that information warfare waged online by activist groups and individuals is playing a critical, at times even definitive role. As the dominance over information flows held by nation-states evaporates, their ability to control the trajectory of conflicts by managing international opinion and maintaining domestic authority is eroding as well.

The threat of this change, as well as the political impact of viral misinformation, has led to calls from some corners for greater regulation and involvement by tech companies in putting curbs on online speech. Although improved media education for the general public is likely necessary, any nostalgia for an earlier era where information was controlled by a few hegemonic media institutions is wildly misplaced.

“If we allow the problems that exist with social media and new technologies to be used as a pretext to roll things back, it would be the ultimate crime,” says Sienkiewicz. “The old media environment in which billions of people had little access to getting their stories told – in which entire classes of people were effectively deemed by media institutions as not worth reporting on – is not something that we should want to return to. We should address the problems that exist with new media, not try to turn back the clock and deem this all a failed experiment.”

For better or worse, thanks to social media and smartphones, a version of the “guerilla world war” predicted by Marshall McLuhan – a war over information drawing in states, militaries, activists, and ordinary people in equal measure – has come into existence. The consequences are likely to transform politics, conflict, and daily life for generations to come. McLuhan himself suggested that surviving in this new world would be possible only through a conscious embrace of change, rather than a retreat into reactionary policies.

“The new technological environments generate the most pain among those least prepared to alter their old value structures,” he said, in a 1969 interview with Playboy Magazine. “When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury.”

“But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place.”

An American Spy Base Hidden in Australia’s Outback

November 23, 2017

by Jackie Dent

The New York Times

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia — Margaret Pestorius arrived at court last week in her wedding dress, a bright orange-and-cream creation painted with doves, peace signs and suns with faces.

“It’s the colors of Easter, so I always think of it as being a resurrection dress,” said Ms. Pestorius, a 53-year-old antiwar activist and devout Catholic, who on Friday was convicted of trespassing at a top-secret military base operated by the United States and hidden in the Australian outback.

From the base, known as the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap, the United States controls satellites that gather information used to pinpoint airstrikes around the world and target nuclear weapons, among other military and intelligence tasks, according to experts and leaked National Security Agency documents.

As a result, the facility, dotted with satellite dishes and isolated in the desert, has become a magnet for Australian antiwar protesters. Over the past two weeks, Ms. Pestorius and five other Christian demonstrators were convicted in two separate trials of breaching the site’s security perimeter last year. They could face seven years in prison.

“In terms of actions like this, it’s pretty basic: We are called to love our enemies,” said Jim Dowling, 62, a member of the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement who was one of the protesters. “Do good to those who persecute you. To turn the other cheek. Put up our swords. All the teachings of Jesus on nonviolence.”

The trials — and the Australian government’s uncompromising prosecution of the protesters — have put a spotlight on a facility that the United States would prefer remain in the shadows.

Born at the height of the Cold War, Pine Gap was presented to the Australian public in 1966 as a space research facility. But behind the scenes, the station was run by the C.I.A. to collect information from American spy satellites about the Soviet Union’s missile program.

Since then, American spies, engineers, cryptologists and linguists have flocked to Alice Springs, the small town closest to the base, to work at the facility. At least 599 Americans lived there in 2016, according to the latest census. Though their presence in town is low-key, there are some telltale signs: a baseball diamond at a local sports complex, Oreo cookies and Dr Pepper in the supermarket, and beef brisket on sale at a butcher shop.

“Americans, from the time they came here, have never been isolated from the rest of the community,” said Damien Ryan, the mayor of Alice Springs, who could remember a time when Americans in left-hand-drive cars were frequently seen on the town’s roads. “They’ve been part of the community the whole time.”

The base is reached by a dead-end road, marked with a sign warning away visitors. Without clearance, the only way to see Pine Gap is by air, or by climbing the craggy ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges that surround the site.

Photos taken from the air show a sprawling campus punctuated by white geodesic domes that look like giant golf balls. Inside these spheres, called radomes, are antenna systems that send and receive information from satellites in constant orbit above the earth.

The staff at Pine Gap was predominantly American until the 1980s, when the two governments, responding in part to public pressure here, made it about half Australian. Today, more than 800 people from both countries are believed to work at the base. But the United States is firmly in control.

“Pine Gap has changed and developed enormously,” said Richard Tanter, a senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and honorary Melbourne University professor who has investigated and criticized the base for years.

In documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the American intelligence contractor turned whistle-blower, Pine Gap is described as playing “a significant role in supporting both intelligence activities and military operations.”

Australians are “not doing a lot of things that our allies are doing,” including permanently hosting American nuclear weapons and soldiers, said Stephan Frühling, a professor at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center of the Australian National University.

Last year, in the early hours of a cold, dark September morning, Ms. Pestorius, Mr. Dowling and three other “peace pilgrims,” as they call themselves, breached Pine Gap’s security perimeter.

As the activists scrambled up a rocky hill to get closer to the base, and with the police moving in, Ms. Pestorius picked up her viola. Another protester strummed his guitar. As they played a lament for those killed in war, Mr. Dowling held up a large, laminated photograph showing a bloodied young woman with her foot missing.

A sixth activist, Paul Christie, 44, carried out his own protest at Pine Gap days later; he was tried separately and convicted last week, charged, like the others, with entering a prohibited area. During the activists’ back-to-back trials this month, a modest band of supporters gathered at the courthouse. Many were members of the country’s antiwar movement, parts of which are religion-infused.

A Quaker knitted flower brooches. A Buddhist brewed coffee from the back of his van. A collection of colorful banners tied to fences read “Close Pine Gap” and “End the U.S. Alliance and Pine Gap Terror Base.”

Mr. Dowling, who said he had been arrested 50 to 100 times, was found guilty once before of trespassing at Pine Gap, in 2005. The conviction was later overturned.

One of his co-defendants this time was his 20-year-old son Franz, the guitar player at the protest last year. The younger Mr. Dowling and two other defendants — Andrew Paine, 31, and Timothy Webb, 23 — live together in a Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Brisbane, where they regularly take in homeless people.

All five were found guilty of entering a prohibited area, and Mr. Paine was convicted of an additional charge of possessing a photographic device.

During the trial, the five — who acted as their own attorneys — tried to argue that they had acted in the defense of others, but Justice John Reeves did not allow it.

Pine Gap has “to bear a big responsibility for all the murder and mayhem that has taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Jim Dowling, who appeared in court barefoot.

Mr. Dowling seemed unperturbed by how few activists had traveled to remote Alice Springs to support him and the others.

“There’s not a huge number engaged in nonviolent resistance in the name of their faith, but numbers don’t matter, do they?” he said. “Just follow your conscience, you know?”

Correction: November 24, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Timothy Webb, one of the activists who were convicted on Friday. He is 23, not 26.


Soros sheltering $18bn that American tax authorities can never touch

November 25, 2017


Billionaire investor George Soros has funneled a sum bigger than the economies of Jamaica or Albania to a private charity he controls. The money can never be taxed by the US Internal Revenue Service.

The founder of the $26 billion Soros Fund Management, transferred $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations over the past several years.

As the Wall Street Journal specifies, when a person donates untaxed, appreciated assets to a private foundation, he may also hold up to 20 percent of its market value on his personal tax return, carrying forward this deduction for five years.

When Congress eliminated the tax break in 2008, investors were given until December 31, 2017, to bring the cash home and pay the accumulated taxes. After Soros used the tax maneuver, he owes nothing to the IRS.

The donors can continue controlling the money for years or even decades, as foundations can hire family members with six-figure salaries to manage the charity.

Thus, the money can be kept by the Soros family almost forever. Soros himself has repeatedly said the wealthy in the United States should pay more taxes.

The newspaper also mentions self-proclaimed philanthropists like Mark Zuckerberg, who has promised to give up 99 percent of his Facebook shares which are worth $70 billion to the charity his family owns.


Gunmen in Egypt mosque attack carried Islamic State flag, prosecutor says

November 24, 2017

by Omar Fahmy and Patrick Markey


CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen who attacked a mosque on Friday in Egypt’s North Sinai brandished an Islamic State flag as they opened fire through doorways and windows, killing more than 300 worshippers, including two dozen children, officials said on Saturday.

No group has claimed responsibility, but Egyptian forces are battling a stubborn Islamic State affiliate in the region, one of the surviving branches of the militant group after it suffered defeats by U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

The assault on a mosque has stunned Egyptians, prompting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government to tighten security at places of worship and key buildings, and call three days of mourning for the bloodiest attack in Egypt’s modern history.

State news agency MENA said the death toll had risen to 305, including 27 children, and 128 people were injured.

Egypt’s public prosecutor’s office, citing interviews with wounded survivors as part of its investigation, linked Islamic State militants, also known as Daesh, to the attack on the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of El-Arish city.

“The worshippers were taken by surprise by these elements,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “They numbered between 25 and 30, carrying the Daesh flag and took up positions in front of the mosque door and its 12 windows with automatic rifles.”

The gunmen, some wearing masks and military-style uniforms, had arrived in jeeps, surrounded the mosque and opened fire inside, sending panicked worshippers scrambling over each other to escape the carnage.

Witnesses had said gunmen set off a bomb at the end of Friday prayers and then opened fire as people tried to flee, shooting at ambulances and setting fire to cars to block roads. Images on state media showed bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the mosque.

“When the shooting began everyone was running, and everyone was bumping into one another,” Magdy Rezk, a wounded survivor, said from his hospital bed. “But I was able to make out masked men wearing military clothing.”


Striking a mosque would be a shift in tactics for the Sinai militants, who have previously attacked troops and police and more recently tried to spread their insurgency to the mainland by hitting Christian churches and pilgrims.

Local sources said some of the worshippers were Sufis, whom groups such as Islamic State consider targets because they revere saints and shrines, which for Islamists is tantamount to idolatry. Islamic State has targeted Sufi and Shi‘ite Muslims in other countries like Iraq.

The jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai have also attacked local tribes and their militias for working with the army and police.

Sisi, a former armed forces commander who supporters see as a bulwark against Islamist militants, promised the “utmost force” against those responsible for Friday’s attack. Security has been a key reason for his supporters to back him, and he is expected to run for re-election next year.

Egypt’s military carried out air strikes and raids overnight to target hideouts and vehicles involved in the attack, the army said, without giving details on the number of militants.


Egypt targets militants following Sinai attack

The Egyptian military has carried out air strikes and raids against militants reportedly linked to Friday’s Sinai attack that killed at least 305 people. President el-Sissi promised the attack would “not go unpunished.”

November 25, 2017


World leaders condemned Friday’s deadly assault on a Sinai mosque, as Egypt hit back with air strikes on suspected Islamist targets.

The United Nations also condemned the attack in “the strongest terms” and expressed its condolences for the victims’ families and the people of Egypt.

Egypt  received messages of solidarity and condolence from Israel, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican.

On Friday, militants set off bombs and opened fire on worshippers at a mosque in Sinai, killing at least 305 people and injuring some 109 others, according to state TV reports, citing prosecutors.

No group claimed responsibility for the gun and bomb assault, but the bloodshed bore all the signs of the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group.

The government holds IS affiliates active in Egypt’s restive northern region responsible for the Friday massacre and similar assaults in the past.

Raids and air strikes

Egypt’s air force on Friday bombed “terrorist” locations in the northern mountainous area around Bir al-Abed in response to the deadliest terror attack in the country’s history.

“The air force has over the past few hours eliminated a number of outposts use by terrorist elements,” the army said.

Spokesperson for the Egyptian air force Tamer-el Refai said that air force planes sent to Bir al-Abed had “destroyed several vehicles used in the attack” as well as targeted hideouts where weapons and ammunition were stockpiled.

Al-Sissi’s tough message

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi had promised that the attack would “not go unpunished.” He convened an emergency security meeting soon after the terrorist assault.

“The armed forces and the police will avenge our martyrs and restore security and stability with the utmost force,” President al-Sisi said in a televised address.

“What is happening is an attempt to stop us from our efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region,” he added.

Violence at prayer time

Authorities said that shortly after the noon prayer time, men in four off-road vehicles surrounded the Al Rawdah mosque, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the provincial capital, Arish, before planting explosives.

After the explosives went off, the attackers opened fire at those who fled. Media reports described at least 20 masked gunmen using automatic rifles in the assault.

The victims included civilians and military conscripts.

The mosque is largely attended by Sufis, who follow a mystical branch of Sunni Islam. Islamic extremists consider Sufis heretics.

Militants have also previously targeted Sufis and Coptic Christians, as well as civilians accused of cooperating with government forces.


Who are the Sufis associated with the mosque attacked in Egypt?

November 24, 2017

by Samer Al-Atrush


Cairo (AFP) – The mosque where Friday’s massacre unfolded in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula had been widely associated with Sufi Muslims who have been attacked by the Islamic State group wherever the extremists operate.

A Bedouin tribal leader told AFP the Rawda mosque, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, was known as a Sufi mosque and contained a “zawiya” — a lodge used by the mystics for prayers and gatherings.

IS is the main suspect in the attack but has not yet claimed responsibility, so it cannot be said with certainty that the mosque was targeted because of its Sufi connections.

But IS has targeted Sufis in Egypt in the past. Last year, the jihadists kidnapped and beheaded an elderly Sufi leader, accusing him of practising witchcraft.

The group’s weekly Nabaa newsletter then published an interview with the commander of its “morality police” in Sinai who said their “first priority was to combat the manifestations of polytheism including Sufism”.

Elsewhere IS has claimed attacks that have killed dozens of Sufis, most notably in Pakistan.

If the mosque was attacked because of its Sufi connections, the massacre would be in line with IS in Egypt increasingly focusing on civilian targets as it makes little headway in its Sinai insurgency.

Since December last year, it has killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings.

Jihadists such as IS bear an institutional hatred for Sufis in particular.

They adhere to a more extreme version of the puritan Salafism practised in Saudi Arabia which views Sufis as heretics.

They accuse them of polytheism — the greatest sin in Islam — for seeking the intercession of dead saints.

The Salafis also condemn what they call “innovations” — rites and prayers adopted by Sufis which the Prophet Mohammed himself never prescribed.

But in much of the Muslim world, Sufism has for centuries been accepted and practised by mainstream Muslims and Sunni Islam’s most important theologians.

The head of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Islamic authority, is a Sufi, as are many top clerics in the Muslim world.

They date their practices back to some of the prophet’s companions and the early generations of ascetics who shunned the increasingly worldly Islamic empire for prayer.

While some Sufis use music in their prayers, the more established and larger orders shun the practice.

They say they want to focus on achieving a state of purity — from which the term Sufism is believed to have been derived — to witness God’s presence in their lives.

Some mystical concepts espoused by their religious leaders have led to detractors over the centuries accusing them of pantheism and other heresies.

In recent times, as the mystics grew more influential and Arab governments embraced them for being non-political, some of their leaders have been criticised for becoming too worldly themselves


Europe at Its Ugliest: The Refugee Scandal on the Island of Lesbos

As winter arrives, the situation on the Greek island of Lesbos is unsustainable. Conditions at the refugee camps are horrific and island residents are tired of being left in the lurch by Athens and the EU. A visit to ground zero of European ignominy.

November 24, 2017

by Giorgos Christides and Katrin Kuntz


Those wishing to visit ground zero of European ignominy must simply drive up an olive tree-covered hill on the island of Lesbos until the high cement walls of Camp Moria come into view. “Welcome to prison,” someone has spray-painted on the walls. The dreadful stench of urine and garbage greets visitors and the ground is covered with hundreds of plastic bags. It is raining, and filthy water has collected ankle-deep on the road. The migrants who come out of the camp are covered with thin plastic capes and many of them are wearing only flipflops on their feet as they walk through the soup. Children are crying as men jostle their way through the crowd.

Welcome to one of the most shameful sites in all of Europe. Camp Moria was originally built to handle 2,330 refugees. But currently it is home to 6,489.

Omar Sherki crawls out of a tent set up against the outside wall of the camp, a thin, pale man who was studying to become an engineer in Syria and played guitar in a rock band. He lives with hundreds of other men in an orchard outside the walls because Camp Moria has become so dangerous. His mattress lies on a wooden palette, beneath which rainwater has collected.

Omar is waiting for aid workers to distribute food: rotten-smelling meatballs and a bowl of rice. “I left to escape one war and ended up in a new one,” he says.

Conditions on the island of Lesbos haverarely been as precarious as they are today. Just as winter is arriving in Greece, some 15,000 refugees find themselves trapped in the five “hotspots” located on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Fully 8,357 of them are on Lesbos, living in horrific conditions in overcrowded, completely inadequate shelters. A huge number of refugees are forced to sleep in tents designed for summer conditions and many of them fear for their safety because of the close quarters and the repeated clashes in the main camp. Dozens of refugees have begun a hunger strike on Lesbos.

The European Union’s refugee deal with Turkey may have managed to cut the number of people reaching Greece by 97 percent, but dozens of migrants continue to arrive every day. Thus far this year, around 11,000 people have crossed over to the island from Turkey – a tiny number compared to the 12,500 who arrived on a single day in August 2015. But back then, newcomers were taken to the mainland and allowed to continue their journeys through the Balkans toward Hungary, Austria and, ultimately, Germany. Now, though, the former registration facilities have essentially been transformed into prisons.

Far Too Long

Those coming from Turkey to apply for asylum in Greece must do so on one of five islands: Samos, Lesbos, Chios, Kos or Leros. The regulation has been in place since March 2016, but the processing of those applications takes far too long. Nevertheless, only those whose applications have been approved – or those deemed particularly vulnerable – may travel onward to the mainland.

The government in Athens has had plenty of time to learn its lesson from last winter, when five refugees died in Camp Moria, some of them because they were trying to heat their tents. Now, the country’s immigration minister is seeking to solve the problem at the last minute ahead of this winter by renting hotels on Lesbos and bringing in two ships from Piraeus that can accommodate a total of 3,000 refugees. On the island of Lesbos though, where residents have shown remarkable patience thus far, there is widespread opposition to the plan.

On Monday, the mayor of Lesbos, known for being a moderate, called for a general strike and declared war on the Greek government. He accuses Athens of seeking to use the need to establish winter facilities as an excuse to transform Lesbos into a prison island.

Meanwhile, the migrants stuck on Lesbos sink deeper into distress. Critics say that the island and its residents have been sacrificed in order to send a message to Turkey that it should continue to uphold its end of the refugee agreement. Brussels touts that deal as a success because it has led to a lasting reduction in the number of people arriving in Europe. But in reality, new slums have popped up on the EU’s periphery.

The smugglers said the waiting period was one or two weeks,” says Omar Sherki*, 24. Having fled from Syrian conscription, Sherki initially got a job working 13 hours a day in a Turkish plastic factory, but his boss rarely paid him. He wants to continue on to Germany where his siblings live, but has been stuck on Lesbos for the past six months.

Hoping for a Miracle

Sherki shares videos of the nightly battles between various nationalities in Camp Moria, where he didn’t end up staying long. In the videos, you can see the stones flying and hear the screams as people run across the roofs of the housing containers to escape. Residents of the camp have set it on fire multiple times. “We can hear the clashes at night,” he says.

Sherki says he would rather live in the orchard with no electricity or water than in the camp. To bathe, he uses a hose near a rock quarry. And he continues to hope for a miracle.

Camp Moria is operated by the Greek federal government and journalists, unsurprisingly given its state, are not allowed inside. But it’s not difficult to pull on a rain cape and sneak through the gates. Inside, you see containers meant for six people packed with 14, overflowing toilets and garbage bins that nobody empties with mothers changing their babies’ diapers right next to them. “Moria, big problem,” camp residents call out to the visitor.

Everybody has had enough: the refugees, the Greeks living on the island and, most of all, the mayor of Lesbos, Spyros Galinos. On Monday of this week, he could be found striding behind a column of honking garbage trucks as they drove through Mytilini, the island’s capital.

The mayor has called for a general strike as an initial protest and hundreds of island residents have traveled to Mytilini by bus to take part. Galinos, a 65-year-old with untamed eyebrows and a deeply creased face, is wearing an oversized, blue winter parka. In his hand, he is fiddling with a string of orange worry beads, which are supposed to help him quit smoking despite the stress he is under.

When Galinos reaches the central square at the port of Mytilini, he climbs up a couple of steps and turns to address the crowd. A man in rubber boots is holding onto his goat with one hand while raising a sign aloft with the other. “We’ve had enough!” it reads.

“For the last three years, we have been bearing an immense burden on behalf of Greece and Europe,” Galinos calls out. “But they have left us defenseless and alone.” He says that decisions have been made without asking Lesbos residents what they thought of them and seethes: “The refugees have to be brought to the mainland immediately! This is an emergency!”

‘It’s War You’ll Get!’

Winter is coming, Galinos continues, saying “the government alone is responsible for the five people who died in Moria.” The mayor is speaking without notes and his voice is trembling with anger. “We don’t have room to build any more camps here. There will be no hotel ships in our harbor. Otherwise, we will blockade the entrance or jump into the water to stop them! If it’s war that you want, then it’s war you’ll get!” the mayor calls out, his message clearly addressed to the government in Athens.

We met with Spyros Galinos in his office two days before the protest march in Mytilini. Lesbos has been praised for its treatment of refugees by the pope, the UN and the European Union. Why is it now refusing to allow the establishment of winter quarters for the migrants?

Galinos lights a cigarette. The answer isn’t so simple.

In September 2015, there were 35,000 migrants camping in Mytilini. Even then, local officials were helping to register the refugees before they were shipped to the mainland. “I was in favor of the EU-Turkey deal so that the pressure on us would be relieved,” he says. “Nobody told me that the people would stay on my island.”

“The backlog was created because those responsible in the asylum system are incapable of rapidly processing even a small number of applications,” Galinos says. The decree that refugees are not allowed to leave the hotspot islands during the time it takes to process their applications, the mayor says, is meant as a message that “the path across the Aegean isn’t worth it anymore.”

The government has an additional argument to justify the conditions on Lesbos: The migrants now arriving on the island cannot be intermingled with those on the mainland because of the agreement with Turkey. The deal, after all, will only work if Ankara is certain that the migrants being sent back to Turkey are in fact the same people who recently crossed the Aegean to Greece.

A Humanitarian Catastrophe

Galinos, though, doesn’t find that argument convincing. Indeed, he believes that Athens has intentionally created the catastrophic conditions on Lesbos ahead of the approaching winter. “They are blackmailing us so that we will accept the hotel ships and a new hotspot. There are enough empty facilities on the mainland.” He finds it hard to understand that the leftist Syriza government is tolerating a humanitarian catastrophe on his island.

But is it really? Marios Kaleas, head of the asylum bureau on Lesbos, provided detailed statistics regarding the work of his agency in a telephone conversation with DER SPIEGEL. He said that he has only 37 Greek officials at his disposal, along with 100 assistants provided by the EU. Every week, they register 350 asylum applications and carry out 150 interviews. But they have been overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals, with up to 100 coming each day.

Kaleas is also openly skeptical of the EU-Turkey deal. “My colleagues and I don’t want a single person sent back to Turkey” if there is any potential danger for them there or if they will simply be deported to the country he fled from, he says. In those cases, he says, Turkey should not be considered a safe country of origin. “When Afghans or Iraqis are sent back, Turkey just deports them,” Kaleas says by way of example.

The treaty with Turkey allows the officials to treat each case individually. “We need 45 to 50 days to process a single case,” Kaleas says. In the first instance, 70 percent of applications are approved. Those from the remaining 30 percent who appeal can expect to be stuck on Lesbos for more than a year. Only 36 people work in the committees who decide on the appeals, handing down roughly 30 rulings per week.

Taken together, the numbers go a long way toward explaining the gridlock on Lesbos. The situation, though, doesn’t just make the migrants themselves more aggressive, but also the surrounding residents.

“The refugees slaughtered one of my sheep,” says Dimitris Kathiotis, 86, as he sits at his kitchen table in the village of Moria. It was his favorite sheep. “It used to give me two liters of milk per day.” Kathiotis has spent his entire life on Lesbos breeding animals. It was a peaceful existence, at least until the camp was set up next to the village he lives in.

Hunger Strike

Kathiotis claims that he isn’t xenophobic, but adds that he no longer feels safe here. “Thirty sheep and goats have disappeared from my fields,” the farmer says. “The migrants have destroyed the fence and my grapevines, and they use the field as their toilet.” He says he had to pay 1,500 euros to fix the fence, but only receives a pension of 338 euros per month. On one occasion, when young migrants sought to drive him off his own land, Kathiotis says he grabbed his rifle and fired two shots into the air. Now, his weapon has been confiscated by the police. “Unfortunately,” he says.

Kathiotis says he saved the head of the slaughtered sheep in his freezer until the mayor came to Moria for a closer look at the problems in the village. “I threw the bloody sheep’s head at his feet,” he says. When even that didn’t help, the farmer bought himself a large dog for protection. He would like to see all the migrants locked up.

Down at the port of Mytilini, four young sisters from Afghanistan have pitched their tent on the asphalt next to the tents of dozens of other Afghans and Iranians. There is a banner in front of their tent: “We want freedom!” it reads. And: “Hunger strike for our rights.”

“We haven’t eaten anything for 18 days,” says Karime, 17. She is a serious young woman with a red scarf wrapped loosely around her head. “We don’t know how else to get people to listen.”

After fleeing from the Taliban in the Afghan province of Helmand, the women eventually ended up in Moria. But during one of the skirmishes in the camp, Karime was hit in the head by a rock. She became one of the many to leave the camp to escape the dangers inside.

The sisters have ambitious dreams for their future, with one wanting to become a dentist, another a designer and a third hoping for a career in engineering. “We though Europe respected human rights,” says Karime. “But that’s not true. ” So they have changed plans. They no longer want to go to Germany, aiming instead for a life in Canada.

*Name and some biographical details have been changed to protect his identity.


Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves

November 24, 2017

by Gardiner Harris

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Of all the State Department employees who might have been vulnerable in the staff reductions that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has initiated as he reshapes the department, the one person who seemed least likely to be a target was the chief of security, Bill A. Miller.

Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for what they claimed was her inadequate attention to security as secretary of state in the months before the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Congress even passed legislation mandating that the department’s top security official have unrestricted access to the secretary of state.But in his first nine months in office, Mr. Tillerson turned down repeated and sometimes urgent requests from the department’s security staff to brief him, according to several former top officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Finally, Mr. Miller, the acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security, was forced to cite the law’s requirement that he be allowed to speak to Mr. Tillerson.

Mr. Miller got just five minutes with the secretary of state, the former officials said. Afterward, Mr. Miller, a career Foreign Service officer, was pushed out, joining a parade of dismissals and early retirements that has decimated the State Department’s senior ranks. Mr. Miller declined to comment.

The departures mark a new stage in the broken and increasingly contentious relationship between Mr. Tillerson and much of his department’s work force. By last spring, interviews at the time suggested, the guarded optimism that greeted his arrival had given way to concern among diplomats about his aloofness and lack of communication. By the summer, the secretary’s focus on efficiency and reorganization over policy provoked off-the-record anger.

Now the estrangement is in the open, as diplomats going out the door make their feelings known and members of Congress raise questions about the impact of their leaving.

In a letter to Mr. Tillerson last week, Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, citing what they said was “the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service officers from the State Department since January,” expressed concern about “what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, sent a similar letter, telling Mr. Tillerson that “America’s diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally.”

Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has made no secret of his belief that the State Department is a bloated bureaucracy and that he regards much of the day-to-day diplomacy that lower-level officials conduct as unproductive. Even before MrTillerson was confirmed, his staff fired six of the State Department’s top career diplomats, including Patrick Kennedy, who had been appointed to his position by President George W. Bush. Kristie Kenney, the department’s counselor and one of just five career ambassadors, was summarily fired a few weeks later.

None were given any reason for their dismissals, although Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Kenney had been reprimanded by Trump transition officials for answering basic logistical questions from Nikki R. Haley, President Trump’s pick as United Nations ambassador. Mr. Tillerson is widely believed to dislike Ms. Haley, who has been seen as a possible successor if Mr. Tillerson steps down.

In the following months, Mr. Tillerson launched a reorganization that he has said will be the most important thing he will do, and he has hired two consulting companies to lead the effort. Since he decided before even arriving at the State Department to slash its budget by 31 percent, many in the department have always seen the reorganization as a smoke screen for drastic cuts.

Mr. Tillerson has frozen most hiring and recently offered a $25,000 buyout in hopes of pushing nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants to leave by October 2018.

His small cadre of aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether. Among those fired or sidelined were most of the top African-American and Latino diplomats, as well as many women, difficult losses in a department that has long struggled with diversity.

One of them was Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career Foreign Service officer who served as ambassador to Liberia under Mr. Bush and as director general of the Foreign Service and assistant secretary for African Affairs during the Obama administration. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield was among those asked to leave by Mr. Tillerson’s staff, but she appealed and remained until her retirement in September.

“I don’t feel targeted as an African-American,” she said. “I feel targeted as a professional.”

For those who have not been dismissed, retirement has become a preferred alternative when, like Mr. Miller, they find no demand for their expertise. A retirement class that concludes this month has 26 senior employees, including two acting assistant secretaries in their early 50s who would normally wait years before leaving.

The number of those with the department’s top two ranks of career ambassador and career minister — equivalent to four- and three-star generals — will have been cut in half by Dec. 1, from 39 to 19. And of the 431 minister-counselors, who have two-star-equivalent ranks, 369 remain and another 14 have indicated that they will leave soon — an 18 percent drop — according to an accounting provided by the American Foreign Service Association.

The political appointees who normally join the department after a change in administration have not made up for those departures. So far, just 10 of the top 44 political positions in the department have been filled, and for most of the vacancies, Mr. Tillerson has not nominated anyone.

“Leadership matters,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former ambassador who retired in June after a 30-year career as a Foreign Service officer. “There’s a vacuum throughout the State Department, and the junior people now working in these top jobs lack the confidence and credibility that comes from a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.”

Even more departures are expected as a result of an intense campaign that Mr. Tillerson has ordered to reduce the department’s longtime backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests. CNN reported that the task had resulted from Mr. Trump’s desire to accelerate the release of Mrs. Clinton’s remaining emails.

Every bureau in the department has been asked to contribute to the effort. That has left midlevel employees and diplomats — including some just returning from high-level or difficult overseas assignments — to spend months performing mind-numbing clerical functions beside unpaid interns.

Mr. Tillerson’s spokesman, R. C. Hammond, dismissed any suggestion that the departures had had a negative effect.

“There are qualified people who are delivering on America’s diplomatic mission,” Mr. Hammond said. “It’s insulting to them every time someone comes up to them and says that the State Department is being gutted.”

Former State Department officials disagree.

“The United States is at the center of every crisis around the world, and you simply cannot be effective if you don’t have assistant secretaries and ambassadors in place,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat who was an under secretary of state for President George W. Bush. “It shows a disdain for diplomacy.”

One result is that there is no one in place with responsibilities for some key trouble spots.

Although the North Korean nuclear crisis is the Trump administration’s top priority, the administration has yet to nominate an assistant secretary for East Asia or an ambassador to South Korea, crucial positions to deal with the issue.

In the midst of the war in Syria and growing worries over a possible conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is no confirmed assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs or ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt or Qatar. And as Zimbabwe confronts the future after the departure of Robert Mugabe, the department is lacking a confirmed assistant secretary for African affairs or an ambassador to neighboring South Africa.

And the department’s future effectiveness may also be threatened. As more senior officials depart, interest in joining the Foreign Service is dwindling. With fewer prospects for rewarding careers, the number of people taking its entrance exam is on track to drop by 50 percent this year, according to the Foreign Service Association.

“The message from the State Department right now is, ‘We don’t want you,’ and students are hearing that,” said James Goldgeier, former dean of the School of International Service at American University.

For many at the State Department, their experience under Mr. Tillerson has been a particular shock because their hopes for him were initially high.

Mrs. Clinton and John Kerry, her successor, were both seen as focused on their own priorities and were not particularly popular within the department. The model secretaries in recent history have been Colin Powell, James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, Republicans who cared about management.

“Everyone who called me, I said: ‘Listen, guys, this is going to be great, and maybe he’ll finally get the department in shape,’” said Dana Shell Smith, the ambassador to Qatar, who recently resigned.

Since then, Ms. Smith has changed her mind.

“These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent,” she said. “Either way, having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen.”


Lies for Fun and Profit!

November 25, 2017

by Christian Jürs


Three of the greatest icons of the Jewish community; Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel and the ever-popular Anne Frank diaries share a common denominator: All of them are deliberate deceptions!

Yes, shocking as that sounds, the trio of iconoclastic entities were deliberately created to excite sympathy for a Jewish community that had suffered persecutions by the so-called Christian communities in the Western world for thousands of years!  These are the major building blocks in a defensive wall around the Jewish community that will serve to not only shame their Christian persecutors but serve as a mighty fortification to prevent any further pogroms or Holocausts and thereby protect and serve the Jewish community!

With this positive thought well in mind, let us show the brilliant techniques by which we find both protection and gain moral superiority over our enemies!

Simon Wiesenthal was born, December 31, 1908 in Buczacz, Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria then part of Austria-Hungary, now Buchach, Ternopal oblast in Ukraine.

Before World War I, most of the current Ternopil oblast was part of Austro-Hungarian province Galicia. Only the northern-most section was within the borders of Imperial Russia.

In 1905, his father, Asher Wiesenthal fled from the anti-Semitic pogroms of Russia and became a resident of Bucsacz where he traded in sugar, beets and other commodities. As the Wiesenthal family now lived inside the Austrian Empire, his father was drafted into the Imperial and Royal Austrian army and died in combat on the Eastern Front in 1917.

When the Communists took control of Galacia, Wiesenthal and his family fled to Vienna where Wiesenthal and his brother went to school until the Russians left Galacia in 1917 at which time the family returned to Buczacz. At the Humanistic Gymnasium, where Simon went to school during those years, he met his future wife Cyla Müller, whom he would marry in 1936. In 1925, his mother remarried and moved with his brother to the Carpathian Mountains. Simon opted to continue his studies in Buczacz, After Simon graduated from high school in 1927, he was subsequently denied admission to the Polish Lwów Polytechnic because of quota restrictions on Jewish students. Jews were very unpopular in Poland as well as Russia  In 1929, he attended the Czech Technical University in Prague where he was highly regarded as a “highly creative story-teller.” Although Wiesenthal claimed he graduated in 1932, he did not complete his degree.

Returning to Galicia in late 1935, Wiesenthal claimed he was finally allowed to enter Lwów Polytechnic and tried to earn the advanced degree that would allow him to practice architecture in Poland. However, Lwów archives have no record of his having studied there.

According to Wiesenthal, following his marriage to Cyla in 1936, he opened his own architectural office in Lviv where he specialized in elegant villas, which wealthy Polish Jews were building, despite the threats of Nazism to the west. He repeatedly claimed he finished his final job a week before the German invasion, which began on September 1, 1939. However, a careful search of Polish records indicate he never registered or worked as a builder or architect and the résumé Wiesenthal himself wrote at the end of the war stated that he was working as a supervisor in a Lviv furniture factory from 1935 to December 1939

Wiesenthal was living in Lwów (then part of Poland and now Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine), when World War II began in September of 1939 As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine were annexed by the Soviet Union on September 17, 1939. Wiesenthal’s stepfather and stepbrother were killed by agents of the NKVD, the Soviet state security and secret police. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Wiesenthal and his family were captured and he and his family were sent to a ghetto. Wiesenthal later claimed that thanks to the intervention of a man named Bodnar, a Ukrainian auxiliary policeman who, on July 6, 1941, saved him from execution by the Nazis then occupying Lviv. This account is contradicted by documentation. In 1945, Wiesenthal testified to war-crimes investigators that he had been arrested on July 13, after the executions had ceased, and managed to escape “through a bribe” before the executions resumed The head SS soldier was Heinrich Gunthert, who asked Wiesenthal, on one occasion, where he was educated. Wiesenthal, remembering that an educated Jew was a dead Jew, lied and said he went to a trade school. Several men stated that he lied, and Gunthert confronted him. He asked Wiesenthal why he lied, and Wiesenthal confessed. Gunthert respected Wiesenthal for his education and gave him the job of architectural design and a comfortable office.

There is no corroboration for the above account. In Wiesenthal’s testimony to the War crime investigators in May 1945, he does not mention these incidents or Kohlrautz’s part in them, and neither were the events included in an affidavit he made in August 1954, recounting his wartime experiences. He did, however, mention senior inspector Kohlrautz in both, stating that he was killed in the battle for Berlin in April 1945. Wiesenthal later told his biographers that Kohlrautz had been killed on the Russian front in 1944

After the war and his liberation from his camp, Wiesenthal claimed he began working for the U.S. Army, gathering documentation for the Nazi war crimes trials. Wiesenthal’s own résumé does not mention this work for the Americans, but lists his occupation at the time as the vice-chairman of the Jewish Central Committee for the U.S. zone, based in Linz, Austria

During this time, Wiesenthal claimed to be instrumental in the capture and conviction of the transport manager of the Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires. Wiesenthal was known to be helping in the manhunt for the former Nazi official, but the extent of his involvement with Eichmann’s capture remains disputed. He was invited by Yad Vashem to talk about his part in tracking Eichmann down, but he failed to mention that his whole correspondence had gone through the Israeli embassy and that Israeli intelligence had been involved. Wiesenthal’s claims angered Isser Harel, then-head of the Mossad, who published his own memoirs in 1971 in which he made no mention of Wiesenthal. Harel’s account has been disputed at book length, but Wiesenthal’s contributions to Eichmann’s capture have never been confirmed.

In 1962, Wiesenthal reopened the Jewish Documentation Center, which began to focus on other cases which he used to gain considerable media notice. The Center was funded by the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency, who also paid Wiesenthal a monthly stipend of $300 for about 10 years.

A number of historical writers have bluntly called Wiesenthal as “a liar” and one wrote that Wiesenthal would “concoct outrageous stories about his war years and make false claims about his academic career. There are so many inconsistencies between his three main memoirs and between those memoirs and contemporaneous documents that it is impossible to establish a reliable narrative from them. Wiesenthal’s scant regard for the truth makes it possible to doubt everything he ever wrote or said.”

The Wiener Library supports the negative evaluation of Wiesenthal. The Library’s director Ben Barkow stated that “accepting that Wiesenthal was a showman and a braggart and, yes, even a liar, can live alongside acknowledging the contribution he made”.

Although Wiesenthal later claimed to have been in 13 concentration camps, including five death camps, he had in fact been in no more than six camps

Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel aka Wiesel Lázár; born September 30, 1928

Born: September 30, 1928, Sighetu Marmației, Romania

Died: July 2, 2016, Upper East Side, New York City, NY

Wiesel was a Romanian-born Jewish writer, professor, political activist, In a  California court case, Elie Wiesel, a self-styled eyewitness of the so called Holocaust, stated under oath in a court case that while at Auschwitz he was tattooed on his left arm with the number: A7713.

Wiesel added that his father’s tattooed number was: A7712.

But, according to a former prisoner at Auschwitz, Hungarian Jew Miklos Gruner, who was at the camp the same time claimed by Elie Wiesel, the number A7713 was assigned to a very different person, Gruner’s friend: a Lazar Wiesel, NOT Elie Wiesel.

The first names “Elie” and “Lazar” are diminutives of the Hebrew name, Eleazar. Thus, Gruner contends, Elie Wiesel has committed a crass deception and imposture by pretending to be Gruner’s friend and former fellow prisoner, Lazar Wiesel.

First of all, let’s take a close look at Elie Wiesel’s left arm. And while we’re at it, at his right arm as well. Evidently, no sign of an imprinted tattoo can be seen.

Second, Gruner – who in his book “Identity Theft” sets out to prove that Elie Wiesel is a fraud – received a letter from the Auschwitz Museum in October of 2003, affirming that the number, A7713, claimed by Elie Wiesel as his, was indeed in fact assigned to Gruner’s friend, Lazar Wiesel, recorded as being born on September 4 1913, NOT September 30 1928, the birth date of Elie Wiesel.

The Auschwitz Museum Letter also affirmed to Gruner that the number, A7712, which Elie Wiesel attributes to his father Shlomo, was actually given to Abraham Wiesel, Lazar’s older brother.

In his book, Night, Elie Wiesel opens with the statement that upon arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in June of 1944 when Wiesel was only 15, he saw before him: “Gigantic flames leaping up from a ditch into which Jewish babies were thrown.”

Gruner calls this an outright lie, asserting in his book, Identity Theft: “I had never seen ditches with open fire where children were burning.”

This was later verified in 1988 by American Federal Court expert in execution technology, Fred Leuchter, who reported that Auschwitz, being built upon a swamp with a high water table, made it impossible for bodies to be burned in ditches.

In January of 1945, the Auschwitz prisoners, which included Miklos Gruner and his friend, Lazar Wiesel, were transferred to Buchenwald.

Liberated by the Americans that spring, a photo was taken by a US soldier that was later entitled, “Crowded Bunks in the Prison Camp at Buchenwald.”

Elie Wiesel has referred to this photo as proof of his internment, and has pointed to a man on the second row as being himself.

Again, Gruner says “No!” noting that the man Wiesel claims to be himself was a man in his thirties and not a boy of 16, the age Elie Wiesel would have been at the time. Notice that the man has an aquiline nose and has full lips while the teenage Wiesel’s nose is obviously concave and his lips, thin.

The thirty-year-old looking man also has a receding hair line while the hairline of Wiesel when a teen is well up to the base of his forehead.

In 1986, Miklos Gruner was invited to meet Elie Wiesel in Stockholm. The Swedish hosts informed him that this was the same person he knew in the camps under the name Lazar Wiesel.

Upon meeting Elie Wiesel, Gruner said afterward: “I was stunned to see a man I didn’t recognize at all – he was certainly not my friend and fellow prisoner.”

Gruner also recalled that he was surprised that Wiesel could not speak Hungarian but spoke English with a strong French accent even though Elie Wiesel claims he grew up in Sighet, Hungary. Gruner and all the other evidence makes a strong case that the Nobel Prize Laureate Wiesel was nothing less than an impostor!





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