TBR News November 27, 2017

Nov 27 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 27, 2017: “Exciting Historical information you need to know about shipping Manure:

In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship. It was also before commercial fertilizer’s invention, so large shipments of manure were common. It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen. Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term “Ship High In Transit” on them which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane. Thus evolved the term “S.H.I.T,” which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.

You probably did not know the true history of this word. Neither did I.

I always thought it was a golf term.”

Table of Contents

  • Is #TheResistance a CIA Front?
  • Blessed be the Ties that Bind: The CIA and the BND
  • 21st-century industrial revolution: Will robots steal your job?
  • Bali’s Mount Agung volcano erupts, prompting mass evacuation order
  • Trump will not campaign for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Moore
  • Shared self-driving cars could slash demand for U.S. sedans: study
  • Breitbart, Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange, and Trump’s Right-Wing Base Reject Plan to Axe Net Neutrality
  • German domestic spy agency hits out at Silicon Valley
  • Russian long-range bombers hit Islamic State targets in Syria: agencies
  • After marijuana, are magic mushrooms next to be decriminalised in California?
  • Miami Faces Future of Rising Seas


Is #TheResistance a CIA Front?

History says “yes”

November 27, 2017

by Justin Raimondo

In George Orwell’s classic dystopia 1984, the mutability of the past is a lethal weapon in the arsenal of tyranny: if history can be molded into whatever shape is required, all the better to serve the Party and Big Brother. Quite a feat, believable perhaps only as fiction, and yet this is surpassed by what our “liberals” have accomplished in real life: the abolition of history, at least in their own minds. As writer Yasha Levine shows here, the editors of Mother Jones – a magazine that has published the most “out there” “Russia-gate” tall tales – have completely forgotten their own history as the victim of Russia-hating anti-“subversive” government witch-hunters:

“[O]f all the liberal media, Mother Jones should be most ashamed for fueling the moral panic about Russian ‘disinformation.’ It wasn’t too long ago that the Reagan Right attacked Mother Jones for spreading ‘Kremlin disinformation’ and subverting America. There were threats and leaks to the media about a possible Senate investigation into Mother Jones serving as a Kremlin disinformation dupe, a threat that hung over the magazine throughout the early Reagan years. A new Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism (SST for short) was set up in 1981 to investigate Kremlin ‘disinformation’ and ‘active measures’ in America, and the American ‘dupes’ who helped Moscow subvert our way of life. That subcommittee was created to harass and repress leftist anti-imperial dissent in America, using ‘terrorism’ as the main threat, and ‘disinformation’ as terrorism’s fellow traveler. The way the SST committee put it, ‘terrorism’ and ‘Kremlin disinformation’ were one and the same, a meta-conspiracy run out of Moscow to weaken America.

“And Mother Jones was one of the first American media outlets in the SST committee’s sights.”

As Levine points out, Adam Hochschild, the founder of Mother Jones, “responded publicly to the threats coming out of the Senate” by pointing out that the accusations were short on facts, but long on the implication that anyone who criticizes our military buildup or US foreign policy was a Kremlin agent. The same thing is happening today – with the difference being that Mother Jones is now in the role of accuser.

Does David Corn, whose writings for Mother Jones have taken on an Alex Jones-like tone, even know the history of his own magazine? Does Ms. Jeffrey? Corn is no dummy, he’s just a fanatic partisan, the type of person who will throw scruples, accuracy, and the burden of history overboard in order to justify the ruthless pursuit of power for its own sake. Jeffrey, on the other hand, is indeed a complete dummy, who doesn’t seem to realize the irony of turning her magazine – named after a socialist – into the house organ of those who blame Bernie Sanders (as well as those Russkies!) for Hillary Clinton’s well-deserved defeat.

So who cares about Mother Jones, anyway? Well, it’s not just about one magazine: it’s an entire liberal tradition that’s disappeared as suddenly and seemingly inexplicably as the dinosaurs, gone down the Memory Hole without a trace left behind.

There’s another tradition, however, one that gets far less examination, and that is the history of “leftist” individuals and organizations that became tools of the CIA, and instruments of the War Party. Here’s an article on civil rights leader Bayard Rustin’s collaboration with Langley, which the author finds baffling. He doesn’t understand how someone with leftist views – and who worked with Martin Luther King – could become a government stooge and tool. That’s because he doesn’t know the history: Rustin was a member of the Independent Socialist League and a follower of Max Shachtman, a dissident Trotskyist who came to support the Vietnam war. Shachtman mentored many a neocon.

During this time CIA support for leftist groups and publications was a fixed strategy central to their program of stopping the Communist advance in Europe and elsewhere: Partisan Review, the New Leader, the Paris Review, Encounter, and even the Kenyon Review, received covert funding from Uncle Sam. And while these outlets were often critical of official US policy, the advantage was that they imbued Washington’s international anti-communist crusade with a left-liberal tinge.

If we put this history in the present context – that is, the context of an “intelligence community” that is out to overthrow an elected President of the United States – then there are some disturbing conclusions we’re forced to draw. First and foremost, we have to look carefully at the outlets that are serving as mouthpieces for our disaffected spooks and wonder if they are receiving the same sort of support as, say, Encounter once did. One of the main mouthpieces, the Washington Post, has openly won a very lucrative CIA contract, which they don’t even bother to hide, but the penumbra of behind-the-scenes manipulation extends far beyond Jeff Bezos & Co.

The entire panoply of “mainstream” liberal publications who have been the loudest voices of the anti-Trump “Resistance” must all come under suspicion: we have sufficient grounds to ask whether they’re being funded, aided, and abetted by the clandestine organizers of what is effectively an attempted coup d’etat.

The crackpot conspiracy theorists of #TheResistance – Louise Mensch, Seth Abramson, and that Garland nutbag – are constantly claiming to have “inside” information fed to them by anonymous intelligence officials. Why not take them at their word? While the “scoops” they’re “reporting” to their deluded followers may be complete bullshit, there’s a purpose to spreading manure so thickly – in hopes of raising a profitable crop. In this case, the crop is a substantial number of fanatic conspiracists who think the nation is under the control of Vladimir Putin.

I think we have to assume that the CIA and its attendant “intelligence community” have infiltrated our domestic politics as thoroughly as they did during the cold war – if not more so. After all, this is their biggest “regime change” operation to date – one carried out right here in the good old US of A. This means that the constituent parts of #TheResistance – the organized groups, the leaders, the journalists – are all under a cloud of suspicion. With some of these sock puppets, the strings are all too visible: David Corn, for one, has been semi-openly working with what look to be elements of the intelligence community, to the extent that he really ought to be giving them a byline. Others are more subtle, but the end result is the same: a chorus of “liberal” and even “left” voices descrying the alleged conquest of the US by Russia.

The eradication of traditional liberalism, the unbalancing of our politics, the paranoid style infused into our daily discourse – these are just a few of the terrible effects the “Russia-gate” hoax has visited on the country. And of course our foreign policy is horribly distorted, with both the “Left” and the neoconservative Right out to start a new cold war. The danger of a nuclear conflict, which we thought had passed with the falling of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, haunts us once again.


Blessed be the Ties that Bind: The CIA and the BND

November 27, 2017

by Christian Jürs

On May 22, 1945, a German Wehrmacht General, Reinhard Gehlen, the former head of the German Army High Command’s Foreign Armies East, surrendered along with his key staff members to the United States military at Fischhausen in southern Germany.

Gehlen’s unit was responsible for gathering and analyzing military intelligence on the Soviet Union. His staff accomplished this by interrogating prisoners in army POW camps—captured Soviet military personnel and, in their headquarters—Soviet defectors. They also studied battlefield intelligence from captured Soviet documents, maps and code books. Further material was obtained by signals intelligence which listened to Soviet non-coded, low-level combat unit radio traffic. These methods of gathering combat intelligence are standard procedures still used by all armies.

During the war, Gehlen did not have intelligence agents in the Soviet Union. The General was not accustomed to gathering and analyzing Soviet political data.

Gehlen dealt strictly with combat intelligence.

Reinhard Gehlen was born in 1902 in Erfurt, Germany, the son of a publisher in Breslau. In 1920, he joined the Reichswehr, rising slowly through the ranks as an artillery officer. In 1933 he was sent to the General Staff College, and in 1935, Gehlen became a captain, the lowest rank in the General Staff.

Except for a brief period in 1938 when he was posted to the 18th Artillery Regiment as a battery commander, Gehlen spent his entire career in the German Army as a General Staff officer. On April 1, 1942, Lt. Colonel Gehlen of the General Staff was appointed head of Foreign Armies East in the High Command of the Army (OKH), a position he held until April 9, 1945 when he was fired by Hitler.

Gehlen had microfilmed all his files before the end of the war and he offered them, plus himself and his staff, to U.S. Army intelligence. The offer was accepted.

On August 26, 1945, Gehlen and four of his closest assistants were flown to Washington for substantive talks with U.S. authorities. Gehlen was the subject of an inter-agency struggle when Allen Dulles of the OSS, once their station chief in Switzerland during the war, and General William Donovan, commander of the agency, attempted to secure Gehlen and his files for themselves. Dulles eventually won and his assistant Frank Wisner was appointed to oversee the former head of Foreign Armies East.

The Gehlen team was based at Fort Hunt, near Washington. Gehlen began his new career by preparing a series of reports which were well received. In July of 1946, Gehlen returned to Germany, and set up shop at Pullach, a former housing project for elite Nazi officials such as Martin Bormann. Gehlen was instructed to build an intelligence agency capable of conducting the highest level surveillance of the Soviets. His microfilmed files were sold to U.S. intelligence for $5 million. Considering that these files only contained material on Soviet military units that had long been disbanded or were no longer combat ready, Gehlen was very well paid for very cold coffee.

Since Gehlen had no experience with internal Soviet intelligence or with their foreign intelligence, he was hard-pressed to use his former army staff officers to supply the United Stateswith relevant material. In 1946, Gehlen hired Willi Krichbaum, formerly the deputy chief of the Gestapo, as his senior agent recruiter. While Gehlen had no experience with Soviet spies, the Gestapo certainly did, and Krichbaum immediately sought out to hire many of his old associates.

At the same time, Krichbaum contacted his former chief, Heinrich Müller, who was now a resident in Switzerland, and a respected and wealthy citizen. Müller was, by no means, inactive in his enforced retirement and was in contact with Krichbaum almost from the beginning of his exile. Lengthy handwritten reports from Krichbaum to Müller spanning nearly three years exist and, while Müller’s correspondence to Krichbaum is not in his files, the Krichbaum correspondence indicates without a doubt, that “Gestapo” Müller was supplying his former deputy with reams of information on prospective employees for the new Gehlen organization, as well as a flood of concise directives on the structure necessary to implement the needs of the US intelligence.

In 1946, Gehlen began the construction of his new agency, while the Soviet military machine in the East Zone of Germany was in the process of downsizing. The Second World War had proven to be a terrible economic disaster to Stalin. His troops were in the process of dismantling German factories which were still intact, ripping up the railroad system, and sending their spoils back to Russia.

The American armed forces were also being sharply reduced, since the war in the Pacific had ended in 1945. Military units were disbanded and their soldiers returned to civilian life as quickly as possible. On the economic front, businesses that had enjoyed lucrative government military contracts found themselves with empty assembly lines and tens of thousands of laid off workers.

It has been said that there never was a good war nor a bad peace. While the latter was certainly beneficial to the Soviets and permitted them to rebuild their economy, it certainly was not beneficial for either the rapidly-shrinking military or business communities in the United States.

This situation permitted the development of the Gehlen organization and secured its position as a vital American political resource. The U.S. had virtually no military intelligence knowledge of the Soviet Union. But the Germans, who had fought against them for four years, had. Gehlen and his military staff only had knowledge of wartime Soviet military units which were either reduced to cadre or entirely disbanded. However, this was of no interest to the senior officials of U.S. intelligence. Gehlen was to become a brilliant intelligence specialist with an incredible grasp of Soviet abilities and intentions. This preeminence was almost entirely fictional. It was designed to elevate Gehlen in the eyes of American politicians including President Truman and members of Congress, and to lend well-orchestrated weight to the former General’s interpretation of his employer’s needs.

In 1948, Stalin sent troops into Czechoslovakia after a minority but efficient communist coup that overthrew the Western-oriented government. This act, in February of 1948, combined with the blockade of West Berlin, then occupied by the British, French and Americans in June of the same year, gave a group of senior American military leaders a heaven-sent opportunity to identify a new and dangerous military enemy—an enemy which could and would attack Western Europe and the United States in the immediate future.

To facilitate the acceptance of this theory, Gehlen was requested to produce intelligence material that would bolster it in as authoritative a manner as possible. This Gehlen did and to set the parameters of this report, Gehlen, General Stephen Chamberlain, Chief of Intelligence of the U.S. Army General Staff, and General Lucius D. Clay, U.S. commander in occupied Germany met in Berlin in February of 1948, immediately after the Czech occupation but before the blockade.

After this meeting, Gehlen drew up a lengthy and detailed intelligence report  categorically stating that 135 fully-equipped Soviet divisions, many armored, were poised to attack western Europe. General Clay forwarded this alarming example of creative writing to Washington and followed up with frantic messages indicating his fear that the Soviets were about to launch an all-out land war on the United States.

Although the sequence of events might indicate that Clay was involved in an attempt to mislead U.S’ leaders, in actuality, he was misled by Chamberlain and Gehlen. They managed to thoroughly frighten General Clay and used him as a conduit to Washington. He was not the last to fall victim to the machinations of the war party.

The Gehlen papers were deliberately leaked to Congress and the President. This resulted in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. This was not a historical first by any means. Elements in England at the beginning of the 20th century, alarmed at the growing economic threat of a united Germany, commenced a long public campaign designed to frighten the British public and their leaders into adopting a bellicose re-armament program based on a fictional German military threat.

Gehlen and his organization were considered vital to U.S. interests. As long as the General was able to feed the re-armament frenzy in Washington with supportive, inflammatory secret reports, then his success was assured.

The only drawback to this deadly farce was that the General did not have knowledge of current Soviet situations in the military or political fields. He could only bluff his way for a short time. To enhance his military staffs, Gehlen developed the use of former SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo people, brought to him by Krichbaum, his chief recruiter

In 1948, control of the Gehlen organization was assumed by the new CIA and put under the direction of Colonel James Critchfield, formerly an armored unit commander and now a CIA section chief.

At this point, Gehlen had a number of powerful sponsors in the U.S. military and intelligence communities. These included General Walter Bedell Smith, former Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower and later head of the CIA; General William Donovan, former head of the OSS; Allen Welch Dulles, former Swiss station chief of the OSS and later head of the CIA; Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, first head of the CIA; General Edwin Sibert of U.S. Army military intelligence and Generals Chamberlain and Clay.

American military intelligence officers were well aware that the Soviet Army threat was hollow and that the Soviets’ act of dismantling the eastern German railroad system was strong proof that an attack was not in the offing, but they were strongly discouraged by their superiors from expressing their views.

In 1954, General Arthur Trudeau, chief of U.S. military intelligence, received a copy of a lengthy report prepared by retired Lt. Colonel Hermann Baun of Gehlen’s staff. Baun, who had originally been assigned to the German High Command (OKW) as an Abwehr specialist on Russia, eventually ended up working for Gehlen’s Foreign Armies East which was under the control of the Army High Command (OKH). Baun was an extremely competent, professional General Staff officer who, by 1953, had taken a dim view, indeed, of the creatures foisted on him by Gehlen. Baun detested Gehlen who had forced him out of his post-war intelligence position with the West. Baun’s annoyance was revealed in a lengthy complaint of Gehlen’s Nazi staff members which set forth, in detail, their names and backgrounds.

General Trudeau was so annoyed with this report that in October of 1954, he took West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer aside as Adenauer was making an official visit to Washington, Trudeau passed much of this information to the horrified Adenauer, who had spent time in a concentration camp during the war. Adenauer, in turn, raised this issue with American authorities and the matter was leaked to the press. Allen Dulles, a strong Gehlen backer and now head of the CIA, used his own connections and those of his brother, John, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, to effectively silence Trudeau by transferring him to the remote Far East.

Trudeau’s warning to Adenauer did not have a lasting effect and on April 1, 1956, former General Reinhard Gehlen was appointed as head of the new West German Federal Intelligence Service, the Bundesnachrichtendiesnt or BND.

It is well-known in international intelligence circles that at the present time, the German BND has the closest relationship with the CIA and there are no secrets between them

This situation, however, refers to German governmental secrets which always end up in Langley, not American secrets that do not end up in Pullach or now, in Berlin.

In this case, as in so many other similar ones, virtue is certainly not its own reward.


21st-century industrial revolution: Will robots steal your job?

November 27, 2017

by Tomasz Pierscionek


More and more jobs are at risk of being outsourced to a cheaper and more efficient robot. Is your job one of them – and if so, will a universal basic income (UBI) prove to be the panacea for increased automation?

Many or most of us wish we could work shorter hours and have more time for family, friends and fun. The struggle to reduce the working day spans several generations. In the 19th century our ancestors, fighting tooth-and-nail with banner in hand, won several victories. Following the February 1848 Revolution in France, the nation’s working day was capped at 12 hours. Four years earlier in the UK, the British Factory Act had reduced the maximum working day to 12 hours for adults and 6.5 hours for children. In 1868 the US congress approved an “Eight Hour Work Day for Employees of the Government of the United States” and following the two revolutions of 1917, Russia’s new authorities reduced the working day to eight hours and introduced both pensions and unemployment pay. Other governments have followed suit over the past century and many countries now have laws limiting the official working week for most jobs to around 40 hours.

Alongside the battle to reduce daily working hours, over the past two centuries workers have also fought a struggle to safeguard their jobs and livelihoods in the face of increased mechanization. In the early 19th century groups of craftsmen and workers, known as Luddites, smashed newly developed factory machines which they feared would make their craft redundant and force unemployment upon them. Over the past several decades, advancements in electronics and computing have revolutionized the working world, creating new jobs and industries. However, the onward march of technology has trampled on the manufacturing industries of Europe and North America, causing the loss of millions of jobs as humans become replaced with cheaper and more efficient robots who work longer hours and don’t require holidays, sick pay or pensions. In the decade between 2000-2010, in the US alone jobs in the manufacturing industry declined by 5.6 million. However, output increased as the vast majority of job losses were due to automation rather than international trade agreements.

Ongoing advancements in technology are expected to lead to further job losses in future.  Accountancy firm PwC predict that in the UK up to 30 percent (10 million) existing, mostly low-skilled and manual jobs could be taken over by robots within the next 15 years.  Economies with comparable figures are the US (38 percent), Germany (35 percent) and Japan (21 percent). According to PwC’s chief economist John Hawksworth “jobs where you’ve got more of a human touch, like health and education,” which do not easily lend themselves to automation are expected to be somewhat protected. Some job losses could be offset as new industries develop on the back of the growth in robotics and AI. However, there are concerns that workers lacking the necessary skills to prosper in the coming years could be left behind in this 21st century industrial revolution, leading to greater income inequality.

Introducing a universal basic income for all citizens, to create a safety net for those whose jobs end up being done by robots, has been touted as a solution. Billionaires Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have spoken in favor of this initiative. Branson comments: “Basic income is going to be all the more important. If a lot more wealth is created by AI, the least that the country should be able to do is that a lot of that wealth that is created by AI goes back into making sure that everybody has a safety net.”

Finland is currently testing out a two-year scheme to give all citizens €560 a month and parts of the Netherlands, Hawaii and Ontario are considering, or in the process of conducting small experiments, giving all citizens a basic income.

The idea of a universal basic income for all citizens, regardless of employment status, is an attractive one. Few would disagree with the idea of creating a safety net to ensure that someone who is down on their luck or unemployed could afford food, shelter and clothing at a minimum. However, extending universal basic income to the entire working population of a large country could be less feasible than introducing it in certain cities or for select populations. For example, there are presently around 32 million employed adults in the UK plus almost another nine million economically inactive individuals aged 16-64. If each of these roughly 40 million people received, say, £500 each month, this would equate to almost £20 billion a month or £240 billion a year – approximately double the annual NHS budget. It’s difficult to imagine this occurring at a time when governments across Europe are taking every opportunity to implement austerity.

Billionaire Elon Musk, a proponent of universal basic income, feels that in the face of increased automation “People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things… Certainly more leisure time.” Some individuals who find their jobs taken over by robots might seize the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends or relish the chance to pursue a favorite hobby or study a topic of interest, whilst receiving a modest allowance. However, some people might find themselves struggling to cope with the lack of a daily routine alongside social isolation and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, all of which are to some degree tempered by having a job, especially one involving physical labor.

The socioeconomic paradigm shift resulting from the combination of automation and a universal basic income would be unprecedented as relationships between workers, bosses, society and the government would be drastically affected. It might even be more profitable for owners of large industries to pay their workers a subsistence wage to stay at home, whilst outsourcing their jobs to robots and computers who don’t require breaks, sick pay or pensions, won’t go on strike on account of poor working conditions or inadequate health and safety standards, and won’t raise thorny issues such as asking for a share of company profits in exchange for labor performed or suggesting factories be run as workers’ cooperatives. Maintaining a high profit margin without having to deal with trade unions, strikes or irate workers: a capitalist’s dream. Meanwhile, the workers can stay at home, isolated from each other, as they enjoy the latest soap opera and read juicy tabloid gossip. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: society, work and our daily lives are set to see radical change over the coming decades.


Bali’s Mount Agung volcano erupts, prompting mass evacuation order

Indonesia has ordered some one hundred thousand people to evacuate after Mount Agung erupted, spewing ash thousands of meters into the air. Authorities have raised the alert level of the volcano to the highest possible.

November 26, 2017


Indonesian authorities on Monday raised the alert status of an erupting volcano in Bali to the highest level, ordering up to 100,000 people within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the crater to evacuate. Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said the alert was raised “in anticipation of the possibility and imminent risk of disaster.”

Mount Agung, an active volcano on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali, erupted on Sunday, sending ash 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) above the crater, according to disaster management officials. “Constant tremors can be felt,” said volcanologist Gede Suantika.

The alert was raised after the volcano shifted from steam-based eruptions to magmatic eruptions, said Kasbani, who heads Indonesia’s geological agency.

“We don’t expect a big eruption but we have to stay alert and anticipate,” said Kasbani, who goes by one name.

Air traffic affected

Officials said Bali’s Ngurah Rai international airport will be closed for 24 hours due to ash clouds.

A small international airport on the nearby island of Lombok, a tourist destination east of Bali, was closed on Sunday evening as wind blew ash in the direction of the island.

Air traffic tracking site FlightRadar24 posted an image of flights being redirected after authorities issued the alert.

Tourists stranded

Flight cancellations throughout the weekend and Monday left tens of thousands of tourists stranded.

AirAsia canceled over 30 flights on Sunday, and Virgin, KLM and Air Asia Malaysia canceled several flights on Saturday.

In September, authorities raised the volcano alert to the highest level, prompting more than 130,000 people in nan increased evacuation area to flee the area amid fears of an imminent eruption. Many had since returned.

The volcano’s last major eruption happened in 1963 and left more than 1,100 people dead. Indonesia straddles the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” and is home to more than 120 active volcanoes.


Trump will not campaign for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Moore

November 27, 2017


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will not campaign for Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate who is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, a White House official said on Monday.

Republican lawmakers have distanced themselves from Moore and called for him to step down, but he has defied those entreaties and denied the allegations, labeling them politically motivated.

Trump, at odds with Republican leaders in Congress, defended the Senate nominee in remarks last Tuesday. Asked if he would campaign for Moore ahead of Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election, Trump told reporters, “I’ll be letting you know next week.”

Moore has faced fire since a Washington Post story earlier this month reported on four women who said the Senate candidate pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. More women have come forward since then.

Reuters has not independently confirmed any of the accusations.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, calling him weak on crime and saying that Jones would not vote for a tax overhaul plan being debated in Congress.

Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate and are eager to maintain their advantage to pass Trump’s legislative agenda on taxes, healthcare and other priorities.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 83

November 27, 2017


The principle of “net neutrality,” which requires telecommunications companies to provide equal, non-discriminatory access to the Internet, is likely to be weakened next month when the Federal Communications Commission takes up a proposal to modify Obama-era regulations on net neutrality.

The Congressional Research Service produced a newly updated report on the subject, suggesting that congressional intervention might be appropriate.

“The FCC’s move to reexamine its existing open Internet rules has reopened the debate over whether Congress should consider a more comprehensive measure to amend existing law to provide greater regulatory stability and guidance to the FCC,” the CRS report said, adding that whether Congress would do so “remains to be seen.”  See The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks, updated November 22, 2017.


Another new CRS report notes that the 11 remaining signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are moving forward without the US, following President Trump’s January 2017 withdrawal from the negotiations. Twenty provisions of the agreement that had been sought by US negotiators have now been suspended as a result. See TPP Countries Near Agreement without U.S. Participation, CRS Insight, November 20, 2017.


Other new and updated products from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Zimbabwe’s Political Transition: Issues for Congress, CRS Insight, November 22, 2017

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress, updated November 22, 2017

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues, November 22, 2017

End-Year DOD Contract Spending, CRS In Focus, November 17, 2017

Keystone XL Pipeline: Recent Developments, November 21, 2017

The Distribution of the Tax Policy Changes in H.R. 1 and the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, CRS Insight, November 21, 2017

FDA Human Medical Product User Fee Programs: In Brief, November 21, 2017

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence, November 21, 2017

The Campus-Based Financial Aid Programs: Background and Issues, November 21, 2017

Fibbing to Get a Lawyer: Circuits Split on Punishment, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017

The Federal Government’s Plenary Immigration Power Collides with the Constitutional Right to an Abortion (Part I), CRS Legal Sidebar, November 27, 2017

Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 22, 2017


Shared self-driving cars could slash demand for U.S. sedans: study

November 27, 2017

by Joseph White


DETROIT (Reuters) – Ride services using self-driving vehicles could slash by more than half demand for owner-driven sedans in the United States by 2030, according to a study released Monday by consulting firm KPMG that used cellphone data to map commuter travel in three large U.S. cities.

The KPMG researchers forecast that ride services using self-driving vehicles will launch first in densely populated urban and suburban areas it calls “island markets.” Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving car unit and General Motors Co have said recently they intend to launch pilot autonomous ride sharing services in limited urban or suburban areas.

As costs for ride hailing drop, KPMG predicts that by 2030 many families will no longer need to own a sedan to get to work or do errands, but will hail a ride instead.

The result will be a “precipitous decline” to 2.1 million sedan sales annually in the United States by 2030 from 5.4 million sales currently, the study predicts, as families dump smaller sedans and keep larger vehicles for longer trips.

Automakers in the United States already are scrambling to re-tool product programs and factories to respond to lower demand for conventional compact and midsize cars, driven by a shift toward sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV already has exited the small and midsize sedan markets in the United States. KPMG predicts more will follow until only three or four companies are serving that market, instead of 10 companies today.

KPMG said it used data collected from cell phones to analyze trips in Atlanta, Chicago and the Los Angeles-San Diego metropolitan regions. In Chicago, many trips are shorter than 15 minutes. In Atlanta, the study found 75 percent of trips are between suburbs, not from the city center to a suburb. Los Angeles trips are the longest, with many rides taking 90 minutes or more, the study found.

The KPMG study, released in conjunction with the Los Angeles auto show, echoed comments by auto and technology industry executives that self-driving vehicles will be deployed first in ride-for-hire services limited to specific areas of cities or suburbs.

Reporting by Joseph White; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Breitbart, Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange, and Trump’s Right-Wing Base Reject Plan to Axe Net Neutrality

November 27 2017

by Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

Federal Communications Commission Chief Ajit Pai has announced that on December 14, the body will vote to pare back net neutrality rules.

Internet freedom activists and progressive organizations immediately responded to the announcement with a wave of opposition, as was expected.

But more interestingly, in some of the most right-wing and Trump-supporting corners of the internet, there is a rebellion brewing.

Take, for instance, Breitbart News. The popular right-wing website has been a loyal ally to President Donald Trump, perhaps more devoted to his cause than any other.

The article about Pai’s move has 1,117 comments, mostly aghast at the FCC’s plan.

“This is as anti consumer as it gets. All will pay more for less [while] simultaneously enriching corporations as they increasingly control who sees what when and how. This is NOT MAGA. It’s a heist and a hijacking,” writes commenter Dr. Pangloss in the top-voted comment on the thread.

Others, like john05, quickly came to the correct conclusion that this could even help telecommunications companies that are close to the Democratic Party. “Comcast will be laughing all the way to the bank when it gets permission to bias its subscribers’ internet traffic in favor of its own media holdings like MSNBC,” he noted.“Why is Trump on board with this?” asked commenter STOP! “We need more monopoly-busting (e.g. Goolag. Twitter, Facebook free speech guarantee), not less.”

Julian Assange and Kim Dotcom, tech libertarians whose anti-authority politics drove them toward anti-establishment Trump, broke with the president over the issue. Both are influential within the online Trump community.

Dotcom, in particular, was called out to comment on the move by activist Barrett Brown.

Assange, meanwhile, tried to speak in a language Trump might understand.

Over at the Daily Caller, another popular right-wing website, some commenters are taking the same route on articles about net neutrality. “Net neutrality is actually good for everyone. I bleed red and vote red, but I’m not okay with this. Repealing net neutrality gives ISPs all the leverage in the world to wring every last cent out of us,” wrote Frank Danger, who has a picture of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas as their avatar.

Some commenters on popular right-wing internet forum Free Republic agreed. “This is a terrible idea. Ending net neutrality will lead to increased censorship and government/corporate control of the internet,” wrote WatchungEagle.

Over at The Blaze, it was more of the same. “Diehard conservative here but I am REALLY REALLY REALLY against this. This is going to result in the opposite of a free-market. How does anyone think this is a good idea? This is terrible news that results in higher prices for us and less options available. Really disappointed in this,” wrote SpringBreakWoo.

This rebellion is also taking place on Reddit.

The top-voted comment on a thread about Pai’s plan on the popular pro-Donald Trump subreddit “The Donald” is “Damn that’s fucked,” by Phate1989. “We must FIGHT!” HarranGRE says in the second-most top-voted comment.

On the main conservative subreddit, r/conservative, a user asked if other users agreed with eliminating net neutrality. The top-voted comment reads, “If we had actual competition for Internet, I would support it. Because the market would kill it anyway. But we don’t. We have monopolies. So I don’t support it.”

On the NASCAR subreddit, which is not explicitly political but caters to an audience that is very much Red State America, a thread on the attack of net neutrality went above 60,000 points before being closed by moderators. One commenter pointed out this was the all-time top-voted thread in the history of the subreddit.


German domestic spy agency hits out at Silicon Valley

November 22, 2017


BERLIN (Reuters) – The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency accused U.S. tech giants like Facebook (FB.O) on Monday of failing to take enough responsibility for content on their sites, undermining democracy by not distinguishing between fact and opinion.

“Today we are discovering a ‘fifth estate’ that makes claims but up until now does not want to take any social responsibility,” Hans-Georg Maassen told a conference on cybersecurity organized by Germany’s Handelsblatt daily.

“These are huge digital companies that only see themselves as conveyors of information and hide behind the legal privileges enjoyed by platforms because they do not want to take over editorial verification of their content.”

Germany has been a leading proponent of stricter regulation of social media networks, passing a law in June to introduce fines of up to 50 million euros ($59.67 million) if they fail to remove hateful postings promptly.

Facebook has responded to tighter regulation in Germany and elsewhere by announcing plans to add thousands of extra workers to monitor reports of inappropriate material and review ads.

Maassen said it was significant that Facebook had admitted that millions of users had seen politically divisive ads on the site that it said were purchased in Russia before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election.

“Democratic pluralism loses its foundations if it is no longer based on facts and reality is reduced to opinions,” he said.

Maassen said he was pleased that there had been no major hacking or suspicious news leaks ahead of Germany’s election in September despite months of warnings, but he added that was partly due to his agency’s work and not a cause for complacency.

Facebook has said it took steps ahead of the German election to ensure the social media network was not used as a platform to manipulate public opinion, including taking down tens of thousands of fake accounts.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Peter Graff


Russian long-range bombers hit Islamic State targets in Syria: agencies

November 26, 2017


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Six Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers hit Islamic State targets in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province on Sunday, Russian news agencies cited Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying.

The bombers that flew from an airfield in Russia hit “terrorist strongholds” in the valley of the Euphrates river, the agencies reported.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alison Williams


After marijuana, are magic mushrooms next to be decriminalised in California?

Mayoral candidate near San Francisco seeks signatures to put decriminalisation on statewide ballot next year, saying drug could offer healing at time of crisis

November 26, 2017

by Olivia Solon in San Francisco

The Guardian

As California prepares for the legalisation of recreational marijuana in 2018, one man is pushing for the state to become the first to decriminalise magic mushrooms.

Kevin Saunders, a mayoral candidate for the city of Marina, just south of the San Francisco Bay, has filed a proposal that would exempt adults over the age of 21 from any penalties over possessing, growing, selling or transporting psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms.

If he can get 365,880 voter signatures by the end of April 2018, the California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative will be placed on the statewide ballot.

Saunders thinks that now is the right time because, he says, the drug can help bridge the current political divide and restore a sense of community.

“The world is really hurting and everybody is at a loss about what’s going on right now with Trump, Brexit, the refugee crisis and everything else. I’m at a loss at what to do politically, but the only thing I feel like we could do is get psilocybin into more people’s hands,” he said.

“It deflates the ego and strips down your own walls and defences and allows you to look at yourself in a different light,” he said, adding: “It could allow people to figure out what to do and could revolutionise the way we treat those with depression, addiction and cluster headaches.”

A profound magic mushroom experience helped Saunders get over a “debilitating five-year heroin addiction” in 2003, when he was 32. “I got to the root of why I made a conscious decision to become a heroin addict; I’ve been clean almost 15 years.”

California is one of eight states where voters have legalised marijuana for recreational use, even though it’s still included in the federal government’s list of schedule 1 drugs. Saunders and Kitty Merchant, who is co-author of the measure and his fiancee, believe that magic mushrooms – also listed as schedule 1 drugs – are the next logical step.

“I think we have learned a lot from marijuana and we are ready as a society,” he said.

So far, they have about 1,000 signatures, but plan to ramp up signature-gathering efforts in early December at college campuses and events like the medical marijuana summit The Emerald Cup. Eighty-five thousand signatures will trigger hearings at the state capitol.

Merchant and Saunders are not the first couple to propose legalising mushrooms. The husband and wife team Tom and Sheri Eckhert announced earlier this year that they were pushing for a similar ballot measure in Oregon, hoping to make it the first state in the US to legalise the drug.

They have taken a more conservative approach than Saunders has, aiming for a 2020 ballot and seeking to legalise the drug to be taken only in licensed centres under the supervision of a certified facilitator. Individuals would not be able to just buy the mushrooms and consume them at home as they can with marijuana.

“It’s not only amazing for mental health, there’s also a lot of potential for self-development and creative work,” Tom Eckhert told Vice in July.

Their efforts run in parallel to several promising clinical trials in which psychedelic mushrooms have been used to successfully treat severe depression, anxiety and addiction.

Robin Carhart-Harris, who has been studying the use of psilocybin to tackle treatment-resistant depression at Imperial College London, believes that it is a “logical inevitability” that the drug will become available to patients.

However, such legalisation will only take place once final phase 3 clinical trials are completed and the drug is approved by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency. To standardise the dose, the psilocybin would have to be administered in capsule or pill form.

“Depression is such a major problem and it’s not being treated effectively at the moment. A lot of patients aren’t seeing results with traditional antidepressants,” Carhart-Harris said, adding that psilocybin could be a legal medicine – to be administered in clinics – within the next five years.

Although magic mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs in terms of the number of people who require emergency medical treatment, according to last year’s Global Drug Survey, they still carry risks.

“They are drugs with very low toxicity and very low abuse potential,” said psychiatrist Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, who said that if you take into account how often people take them, they are safer than cannabis.

“The only difference being the potential for mushrooms to distort your perceptions, cognition, emotions in a way that is totally outside of most people’s real of normal experience. For a minority of people, taken in the wrong situation, that could be terrifying.”

Winstock said he’d prefer to see a well-regulated market for magic mushrooms where you’d have to show a letter from a doctor saying you were not receiving any acute mental health care or medications. Buyers should also be given advice on how to use the drug, what the effects are and given links to online services to manage difficult situations if they arise.

“I would get people to treat mushrooms with the respect they deserve,” he said.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a not-for-profit group focused on ending the “war on drugs”, would not comment on the specific proposals in California and Oregon, but its director of legal affairs, Tamar Todd, said: “We certainly agree that nobody should be arrested or incarcerated simply because they possessed or used drugs.”

An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Robin Carhart-Harris works at University College London. He is at Imperial College London.


Miami Faces Future of Rising Seas

November 22, 2017

by Steve Baragona



Sue Brogan’s street is barely above sea level on a good day. During autumn’s “king tides,” when the sun and moon align to create the highest tides of the year, Biscayne Bay backs up through storm drains and flows into Brogan’s street, in Miami’s low-lying Shorecrest neighborhood.

Roads flood. The salt water rusts cars and kills greenery. For now, it’s mostly a nuisance several days a year. But Brogan knows it’s only going to get worse.

“It’s more of a warning situation. Where is it going to go from this?” she asks.

Climate change is expected to raise sea levels a minimum of three-quarters of a meter by the end of the century, according to the estimates that regional planners use. That puts most of Shorecrest underwater year-round, along with other low-lying waterfront neighborhoods. And higher seas mean increased risk of tidal flooding and storm surges across this hurricane-prone city.

The planners’ high-end estimate is two meters of sea level rise. That would submerge most of the glitzy city of Miami Beach, across the bay.

And scientists say three to three-and-a-half meters is extreme but plausible. In that scenario, Miami Beach is gone and Miami is an archipelago.

Planning for this future is difficult, expensive and often controversial. But the Miami region has little choice.

“Sea level rise is an existential threat,” said City of Miami Chief Resilience Officer Jane Gilbert. “But it is not an imminent existential threat … We have time to plan.”

Miami Beach leads way

As a barrier island with some of the most expensive real estate in the region, Miami Beach is quite literally on the front lines of climate change. The city has the motivation, and the resources, to take some of the most aggressive action in the region.

Residents are paying for roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of seawalls, raised streets, sewer pumps and more.

“Thankfully, our residents — the folks that are footing the bill for this work — realize that the cost of doing nothing is much greater,” said Public Works Director Eric Carpenter.

There have been some hiccups. In some places, the streets were raised but not the adjacent businesses. As a result, an insurance company considered one business to be a basement and denied a flood insurance claim.

Miami Beach is working to resolve the dispute.

“I think there are inherent risks with being first,” Carpenter said.

But the city gets credit for moving forward despite the challenges.

“It’s not working perfectly. But they’re at least doing the experimentation,” said Zelalem Adefris with the advocacy group Catalyst Miami.

Redesigning ShorecrestAcross the bay, she added, the City of Miami has been slower to act. But there are signs of progress.

Just this November, city voters approved a $400 million “Miami Forever” bond issue, half of which is earmarked for sea-level rise adaptation.

Shorecrest will likely see some of that money to upgrade sewers and raise roads.

More controversial proposals are on the table, too, like buying up some of the most flood-prone homes and turning the land into a flood-absorbing park. Residents could move to higher-density housing to be built on higher ground.

Brogan’s building would be demolished. But she doesn’t mind.

“With climate change, with rising water, we’re going to have to abandon certain property,” she admitted.

But like many in the mixed-income neighborhood, Brogan rents her apartment. Others are skeptical of the idea.

“I don’t think the homeowners are going to be very happy about that,” said Daisy Torres, president of the Shorecrest homeowners’ association.

Objections come not only from residents whose houses would be torn down. Some people living near the areas where the city proposes building that higher-density housing don’t like the idea, either, she added.

Jane Gilbert stresses that there are no immediate plans to rearrange Shorecrest. “They have a good amount of time to still be in that area,” she said. “It’s really much more long-term.”

“We feel the more we are having those conversations now, the easier it is for everyone to adapt over time,” she added.

High and (not) dry in Highland Village

Meanwhile, in another flood-prone low-lying community just a short drive north, those conversations are further behind.

Frank Burrola lives in a trailer in Highland Village, a mostly low-income neighborhood of homes and trailers on small plots in the city of North Miami Beach. Fall high-tide flooding is a virtual certainty on his street. And a storm several years ago left his yard with knee-high water.

“Right now, we’ve got a real serious problem,” Burrola said. “I don’t know if we’re still going to be around in five years if this keeps up.”

While the cities of Miami and Miami Beach are beginning to prepare, “there are other areas that really don’t have the funding, and they’re the ones that are really suffering,” said climate analyst Keren Bolter with the South Florida Regional Planning Council.

North Miami Beach is considering putting homes on stilts, and replacing trailers that flood with “tiny” homes that meet building codes, according to community development director Richard Lorber. But he doesn’t know where the funding will come from.

“My little city can’t stop king tide,” Lorber said, using the term for the fall high tides.

North Miami Beach officials say Miami-Dade County will have to take the lead. The county says the city is in charge. Neither has immediate plans for Highland Village.

It may take a disaster before major changes happen.

“It’s ironic, but in our way of doing emergency management, it’s tough to get the money before the storm. And after the storm there’s a lot of money,” said Miami-Dade County Chief Resilience Officer Jim Murley.

Barring a disaster, Murley said, “it’s easier to find the money” if a community comes to a collective decision on what it wants to do.

However, “most of the time, you just sort-of continue getting by,” he added. “And people make a decision on their own accord if they want to stay or leave.”

Engineering or retreat?

In the long run, the fate of Miami and many of the world’s coastal cities depend largely on how much, and how fast, the oceans rise. Scientists still have a lot to learn before they can make accurate predictions. But, they warn, the pace of sea level rise is increasing.

For many, retreat from the coast is inevitable.

“We’re going to have to leave sooner or later,” said Caroline Lewis, founder of the climate advocacy group the CLEO Institute. “But if we can have a planned retreat, and we could implement some of our ideas about keeping people as safe as possible for as long as possible, then we would have accomplished a great deal that the whole world could learn from.”

But in a city that carved itself out of a swampy wilderness, optimists abound.

“There’s an engineering solution to every problem,” Carpenter said. “It just comes down to, is there the political will to go through whatever pain may be associated with that solution, and the will to try and fund it.”

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