Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News November 27, 2018

Nov 27 2018

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

Washington, D.C. November 27, 2018: “SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), is an American technology applications company headquartered in the United States and who works for a number of U.S. federal, state, and private sector clients. It works extensively with the United States Department of Defense, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the American domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, as well as other U.S. Government civil agencies and selected commercial markets.

From 2001 to 2005, SAIC was the primary contractor for the FBI’s unsuccessful Virtual Case File project. SAIC relocated its corporate headquarters to their existing facilities in Tysons Corner in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near McLean, in September 2009. As part of its outsourcing solution, SAIC has development centers in Noida and Bangalore, India. Scicom Technologies Noida was acquired by SAIC in September 2007.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) transitioned a Remote Viewing Program to SAIC in 1991 and it was renamed Stargate Project. STARGATE was one of a number of “remote viewing programs” conducted under a variety of code names, including SUN STREAK, GRILL FLAME, and CENTER LANE by DIA and INSCOM, and SCANATE by the eccentrics at the CIA. These efforts were initiated to assess foreign programs in the field; contract for basic research into the phenomenon; and to evaluate controlled remote viewing as an intelligence tool.

The program consisted of two separate activities. An operational unit employed remote viewers to train and perform remote viewing intelligence-gathering. The research program was maintained separately from the operational unit.

This effort was initiated in response to CIA concerns about highly unreliable reports of Soviet investigations of ‘psychic phenomena.’ Between 1969 and 1971, US intelligence sources erroneously concluded that the Soviet Union was engaged in “psychotronic” research. By 1970, it was suggested that the Soviets were spending approximately 60 million rubles per year on it, and over 300 million by 1975. The money and personnel devoted to Soviet psychotronics suggested that they had achieved breakthroughs, even though the matter was considered speculative, controversial and “fringy.” Using a declared, but fictional ‘Soviet threat,’ the CIA and other agencies have successfully deluded Congress, and often the White House, into heavily funding project that the agencies consider to be ‘cash cows.’

The initial research program, called SCANATE [scan by coordinate] was funded by CIA beginning in 1970. Remote viewing research began in 1972 at the Stanford Research Institute [SRI] in Menlo Park, CA. This work was conducted by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, once with the NSA and a later-identified Scientologist. The effort initially focused on a few “gifted individuals” such as the very eccentric Ingo Swann, an OT Level VII Scientologist. Many of the SRI “empaths” were from the Church of Scientology. Individuals who appeared to show potential were trained and taught to use talents for “psychic warfare.” The minimum accuracy needed by the clients was said to be 65%, and proponents claim that in the later stages of the training effort, this accuracy level was “often consistently exceeded.”

Ingo Swann born in 1933 in Telluride, Colorado and died in 2013 in New York City, was heavily involved with the bizarre Scientology movement from its onset and was best known for his work as a co-creator (according to his frequent collaborators Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff) of what has been called ‘remote viewing,’ specifically the Stargate Project.

Swann described himself as a “consciousness researcher” who had sometimes experienced “altered states of consciousness.” In other words, Swann actually believed that “special” individuals can leave their body and travel through space..

Swann helped develop the process of remote viewing at the Stanford Research Institute in experiments that caught the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency. He proposed the idea of Coordinate Remote Viewing, a process in which ‘remote viewers’ would see a location given nothing but its geographical coordinates. This bizarre project, was developed and tested by Puthoff and Targ with CIA funding. Details and transcripts of the SRI remote viewing experiments themselves were found to be edited and even mostly unobtainable.

The Table of Contents 

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 91
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Manafort accused of lying to U.S. special counsel, blowing up plea deal
  • Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy
  • Trump blasts GM plan to cut plants, says he was ‘tough’ on CEO Mary Barra
  • Trump threatens General Motors after announced closures in Midwest
  • Migrant caravan: Trump defends tear gas on Mexico border
  • Kerch crisis: court orders Ukrainian sailor to be detained for two months
  • US, Europe & NATO risk all-out war by backing unhinged Kiev regime
  • Russia’s $11 Billion Natural Gas Pipeline Is Primed to Fuel Europe

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 91

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jul 18, 2018

“On July 25th, the leaders of the European Union will be coming to see us at the White House. And as you know — I’ve made no bones about it — they have massive trade barriers where our farmers can’t sell there, for the most part.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: While U.S. farmers do face some trade barriers in selling into the European Union, it is a gross exaggeration to say “our farmers can’t sell there,” even adding in the “for the most part.” According to the website of Trump’s own Department of Agriculture, the U.S. exported $11.6 billion in agricultural items to the European Union in 2016 and $11.5 billion in 2017. The EU ranked fourth for U.S. agricultural exports in 2016 and fifth in 2017.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“Other companies are, likewise, bringing in billions and billions of dollars. So we’ve never seen anything like this before. I think, ultimately, that number could be $4 trillion. So these are not numbers that anybody has ever even heard of or would ever be familiar with, because it never happened before.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Trump is right about one thing: this is not a number anybody is familiar with. Four experts contacted by the Star said they were not aware of any estimate as high as $4 trillion for the amount of corporate profits not repatriated from overseas by U.S. companies. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of $2.6 trillion in August 2016, and experts said they were not aware of a massive jump in the following two years. (An October 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) pegged the number at $2.6 trillion, while Goldman Sachs pegged it at $3.1 trillion the same month.) “Until there is some legitimate report showing otherwise, my guess continues to be that President Trump is arbitrarily inflating” the accurate number, ITEP senior policy analyst Richard Phillips said in July 2018. “I haven’t seen any reliable estimate that the number is that high,” said Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff for the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and now a chair at the University of Southern California’s law school.

Trump has repeated this claim 32 times

“The vets now, instead of standing on line for two weeks or one week or three months, they can go out and see a doctor, and we pay for it, and it turns out to be much less expensive. And they are loving it. Nobody thought it was possible to get that.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The Associated Press reported: “Trump’s suggestion that veterans are getting immediate care because of Choice does not reflect the reality. Trump did sign into law last month a bill that would ease restrictions on private care. But its success in significantly reducing wait times depends in large part on an overhaul of VA’s electronic medical records to allow for a seamless sharing of records with private physicians. That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be complete. Under the newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician. Those criteria will be set in part by proposed federal regulations that will be subject to public review. Currently, only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. A recent Government Accountability Report found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 days to 64 days.”

Trump has repeated this claim 8 times

“The consumer and business optimism polls have reached the all-time highs — highest number ever recorded.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Consumer confidence is not at an all-time high, nor even a high for this century. The Conference Board consumer confidence index fell 2.4 points in June to 126.4. The index stood at 132.6 in November 2000.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“Women’s unemployment is at the lowest level in 65 years.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: This was no longer true at the time Trump spoke. It was true as of the previous month: the women’s unemployment rate for May, reported in June, was 3.6 per cent, the same as in 1953, 65 years prior. But it rose to 4 per cent in June, which was merely the lowest since 2017 — or, if you’re only counting pre-Trump years, the lowest since 2000, 18 years ago.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There is no evidence that NATO countries agreed at this meeting to put up billions of additional dollars or put up money “at a faster pace.” The countries merely agreed to a declaration in which they reiterated their 2014 commitment to spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence by 2024: “We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all aspects of the Defence Investment Pledge agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit, and to submit credible national plans on its implementation, including the spending guidelines for 2024.” French President Emmanuel Macron explicitly rejected Trump’s claim: “The communique is clear. It reaffirms a commitment to 2 per cent in 2024. That is all,” he said.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

  • Jul 19, 2018

“Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 per cent.”

Source: Interview with CBS’s Jeff Glor

in fact: Joe Biden has run for president twice, not three times.

“The Fake News Media is going Crazy! They make up stories without any backup, sources or proof. Many of the stories written about me, and the good people surrounding me, are total fiction.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There is no evidence that media outlets have made up sources for their articles about the workings of the Trump administration.

Trump has repeated this claim 12 times

“The Democrats have a death wish, in more ways than one – they actually want to abolish ICE.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is an exaggeration. There is new Democratic momentum behind the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but that is not the position of “the Democrats” as a whole. While a smattering of Democratic House members and two prominent senators, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, had joined the call for abolition at the time Trump spoke, the party’s leadership was opposed to the proposal. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “Look, ICE does some functions that are very much needed. “Reform ICE? Yes. That’s what I think we should do. It needs reform.” Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, through a spokesperson, has called for a “drastic overhaul of its immigration functions,” but has not endorsed abolition. Further, even the officials who have endorsed abolishing ICE have not called for ending immigration enforcement entirely.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

  • Jul 20, 2018

“Now, we then go to a news conference. I mean I had these — some of these fools from the media saying, ‘Why didn’t you stand there, look him in the face, walk over to him, and start shouting at him?'”

Source: Interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen

in fact: Unless we’re missing something — we’ll remove this item from the list if someone shows us we were indeed missing something — Trump’s critics in the media did not demand he walk over to Putin and shout in his face; some of them merely said Trump should have professionally denounced Putin from his own spot at the press conference. According to a Wall Street Journal report, it was Trump’s own aides who wanted Trump to get up in Putin’s “face.” The Journal reported: “In preparatory meetings, Mr. Trump and his aides discussed using the indictment to forcefully make the case. The plan was for Mr. Trump to invoke the indictment both in private meetings and in the public news conference afterward, a White House official said. The idea, the official said, was to ‘shove it in Putin’s face and look strong doing it,’ depicting it as hard evidence of Russian crimes against America’s electoral process.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“With Mexico, $120 billion (trade deficit). Mexico. Who would think Mexico? Mexico’s making a fortune.”

Source: Interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen

in fact: The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico was $69 billion in 2017, $71 billion in 2017 when counting goods alone. Trump has usually claimed that the deficit with Mexico is $100 billion; this was the first time he exaggerated all the way to $120 billion.

Trump has repeated this claim 34 times

“China: with China, $507 billion a year in deficits.” And: “We’re down 500. Now some people would say $375 billion. I’m not talking about million. I’m not talking about pennies. I’m talking about — we’re down $375 billion, but other estimates could say $507, it doesn’t matter. So it’s in between there, or it’s there.” And: “And it’s very interesting because I actually asked them the question, ‘So we’re down 507 — recently — we’re down $507 billion in trade deficits. How did it happen?’ And they told me, ‘Nobody ever complained. Nobody ever talked to us.'”

Source: Interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods. There are no estimates by which it “could say” $507 billion.

Trump has repeated this claim 51 times

“You know last year, and for years, we have been losing $150 billion with the EU nations, with the European Union…” And: “With the EU $151 billion…”

Source: Interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen

in fact: The U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017. The $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and excludes trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was excluding services.

Trump has repeated this claim 29 times

“The price of soybeans has fallen 50% since 5 years before the Election. A big reason is bad (terrible) Trade Deals with other countries.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Trump is incorrectly blaming this decline on trade deals, experts say. What actually happened: a severe drought in 2012 limited soybean supply and thus increased 2012 prices, which later returned to pre-drought levels. In other words, Trump is cherry-picking data — beginning his calculation from the time when soybean prices were unusually high. Wallace E. Tyner, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University, told Factcheck.org: “Remember that 2012 was a severe drought year, so the prices were high because of low production — not policy. If you start from a high number, the change looks larger. Look at the non-drought years.”

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 27, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

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

Conversation No.93

Date: Friday, July 25, 1997

Commenced: 9:17 AM CST

Concluded: 9:40 AM CST

GD: How is the cold coming along?

RTC: It’s progressing.

GD: Don’t we all?

RTC: No, quite a number are regressing. I had a long call from Kimmel today about you. GD: He’s been on the phone a bit with me recently. Trying to pump me for Müller’s new U.S. identity.

RTC: Be careful of him, Gregory. He’s two-faced and does not like you. Obviously you haven’t given him the name and you never will but Thomas is so filled with his self-importance that he would never conceive that you could see through his clumsy interrogations.

GD: I really wonder why these people are after me.

RTC: Two reasons, Gregory. First off, they think you can see through them and second, you are smarter than they are and neither aspect is pleasing to them. Any of them.

GD: I have been making an effort to locate material in the files that would help the Kimmel family with their attempts to have the Admiral rehabilitated. Typical. The more favors you do for some people, the more they hate you.

RTC: I think jealousy is a key here. They have built up a mini-empire for themselves and do not like strangers around who do not worship them. Kimmel is like that. He has good looks and people who are blessed with them, live off them.

GD: And when the hair starts to go and the belly swells, who notices them?

RTC: Exactly. And to be honest, who cares about Admiral Kimmel these days? He fell down on the job and got canned. I mean to say that for the period, the one before Pearl Harbor, he was following precedent but it was a shallow one and in those days, there was no intelligence coordination. Still, he had enough warning to do more.

GD: Well, thanks for the tip off. I will cut back on digging and look into other areas of my own interest.

RTC: Also, let me tip you, Kimmel says you are arrogant and opinionated and apparently are not sufficiently impressed with his towering abilities to pay him the homage he expects.

GD: A small rat in a big barn.

RTC: Don’t tell him that. But he keeps slyly telling me what a terrible liar you are and hinting at a terrible past for you. As my dear friend, of course, he wants to keep me as far away from you as he can. I am getting tired and very annoyed with the constant drum fire of criticism about you from this clan of rats. If Kimmel keeps this up, I just might give you something negative about him that would really shut him up.

GD: Why not fill me in now? I promise not to discuss whatever it is with him or anyone else but given his position in the intelligence community and his other connections, it might be a good idea if I had something to counter his sneaking backstabbing with.

RTC: Well perhaps just a hint. I know a good deal about all of these people but in my business it is better not to let them know you are aware of their dark secrets.

GD: And I agree but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, Robert so the more I know, the more I can defend myself.

RTC: Well, the Arrow Shirt boy likes to play with other boys.

GD: In the sand box?

RTC: No, in the locker room. He likes to instruct young basketball players.

GD: Instruct them in what?

RTC: Use your imagination, Gregory.

GD: Are you going to inform me that, in the words of an off-color limerick, that for now his chief joy is a round bottomed boy?

RTC: Well, you said it.

GD: You wouldn’t have pictures by any chance, would you?

RTC: Jesus, Gregory, give me a break. I know what goes on. I have to for my own protection.

GD: And I as well. Is this just a glitch in his lifestyle or a long running habit?

RTC: Yes.

GD: Long running?

RTC: Oh yes.

GD: My, how the mighty have fallen, Robert. The image of masculine superiority shattered. Does he run around the house in a dress?

RTC (Laughter) I wouldn’t know about that but I would doubt it.

GD: Not a clean doorknob in his house.

RTC: You do have a twisted mind, Gregory. Such lewd talk.

GD: Not a twisted mind, Robert, but I have run group therapy sessions and I know people. These closet queens are really vicious. My sister has borderline personality disorder so I have experience with asocial types. And my sense of humor is a bit warped.

RTC: No, don’t say that.

GD: Once the FBI was looking for a sinister person in San Francisco and one of their agents, whom I knew, asked me if I could help them locate this person.

I said I would and since I was the person they were looking for, why I went right out and started looking.

RTC: What had you done, Gregory?

GD: Oh nothing criminal. I was helping out a friend they did not like. Anyway, I advised this fellow that the man he wanted was a Harry Brunser.

RTC: And was there such a person?

GD: In Frisco slang a brunser is an anus.

RTC: (Laughter) And they went for it?

GD: Asked all over town and made fools out of themselves. Actually, Robert, that is unfair. I did not make fools out them but God beat me to it.

RTC: They must have been unhappy with you in the end.

GD: In the end? There you go harping on Kimmel.

RTC: Let’s change the subject here.

GD: Like changing diapers. Well, we could discuss Bach but why bother. My son wants to borrow my car in about five minutes and I have to come up with some reason to prevent this. He has a habit of backing into things or scraping fire plugs and forgetting to tell me. Good clean fun for him but huge repair bills for me not to mention dealing with hysterical old women whose cat he just ran over. I will ring you up in a bit and thanks for the tip on Kimmel. Now I can tell him randy gay jokes and really get him peeved.

(Concluded at 9:40 AM CST)

 

Manafort accused of lying to U.S. special counsel, blowing up plea deal

November 26, 2018

by Nathan Layne, Karen Freifeld

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea deal by lying to federal investigators, U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing, signaling a potential setback to the special counsel’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manafort said in the same filing on Monday that he disagreed with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion that he had lied, but both sides agreed the court should move ahead and sentence him for his crimes.

Without a pardon, the 69-year-old Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison, experts said.The surprise development comes at a critical time for Mueller, who is expected to finalize a report in the coming months on the findings of his 18-month probe into Russia’s election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

While not a fatal blow, the dissolution of Manafort’s plea agreement means Mueller is losing the contributions of a witness with deep ties to Russia and who ran the Trump campaign as it took off in mid-2016.

“It’s bad for the overall Mueller investigation,” said Patrick Cotter, a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago and former assistant U.S. attorney in New York. “He’s got one less witness today.”

Still, Cotter said, it did not mean Manafort’s cooperation had not been of any value, noting that he may have led Mueller to other sources of information.

Manafort was a long-time Republican political consultant who made tens of millions of dollars working for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016, promising to work for free.

Manafort attended a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a group of Russians offering “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who lost in an upset to Trump in the vote that November.

His long-standing relationship with an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin was another reason Manafort’s cooperation was seen as important to Mueller’s probe.

Manafort started cooperating in September after pleading guilty in a federal court in Washington to conspiracy against the United States – a charge that included a range of conduct from money laundering to unregistered lobbying. He also admitted that he tried to tamper with witnesses.

Mueller said in the filing that after signing the plea agreement “Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters.”

Prosecutors did not provide details of the alleged lies but said they would do so before sentencing.

Manafort’s attorneys said Manafort met with the government on several occasions and made “an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations,” according to the joint filing, which was submitted to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington.

Rudy Giuliani, who represents Trump in the Russia probe, said Mueller’s team had crossed an ethical line between a search for the truth and exerting too much pressure on Manafort.

“They are trying not to get a witness to sing, but to compose,” he said in an interview with Reuters on Monday night.

ANGLING FOR PARDON?

The breakdown in the plea deal means that Manafort will almost certainly be hit with a harsher sentence – both for the crimes he pleaded guilty to in Washington and for his conviction in August in a separate case in Virginia on bank and tax fraud.

Manafort was likely facing about 10 years in prison – a statistical life sentence given his age – for the eight guilty counts in the Virginia case alone, sentencing experts have said.

“The consequences are potentially devastating for Manafort,” said Washington attorney Shanlon Wu, who represented Manafort’s former associate Rick Gates before he pleaded guilty and became a star witness for prosecutors in Manafort’s Virginia trial.

But the development also raised speculation that Manafort may be seeking to curry favor with Trump or protecting other associates who worked on the campaign.

Trump has been vocal in his support for Manafort, lauding him as a “very good person” during the Virginia trial. And when asked directly about the prospect of pardoning his former campaign chairman, Trump has not ruled it out.

“It seems to me he’s angling for the pardon,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami.

Giuliani, who said he regularly talks to Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing, said Manafort told prosecutors “at least 10 times that he has no information on wrongdoing by the president.”

Giuliani, who last week called for an end to the Russia probe, denied he was making a case for a pardon of Manafort. “This has nothing to do with a pardon,” he said.

Russia denies U.S. allegations it hacked Democratic Party emails and ran a disinformation campaign. Trump denies any campaign collusion and has repeatedly called the investigation a political witch hunt.

Reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York; Additional reporting by David Alexander and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Peter Cooney & Kim Coghill

 

Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

Exclusive: Trump ally met WikiLeaks founder months before emails hacked by Russia were published

November 27, 2018

by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns in Quito

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

Manafort was jailed this year and was thought to have become a star cooperator in the Mueller inquiry. But on Monday Mueller said Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, despite agreeing to cooperate two months ago in a plea deal. According to a court document, Manafort had committed “crimes and lies” on a “variety of subject matters”.

His defence team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

Manafort’s first visit to the embassy took place a year after Assange sought asylum inside, two sources said.

A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”.

According to two sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.

Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt.

Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.

Embassy staff were aware only later of the potential significance of Manafort’s visit and his political role with Trump, it is understood.

The revelation could shed new light on the sequence of events in the run-up to summer 2016, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails hacked by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Hillary Clinton has said the hack contributed to her defeat.

The previously unreported Manafort-Assange connection is likely to be of interest to Mueller, who has been investigating possible contacts between WikiLeaks and associates of Trump including the political lobbyist Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr.

One key question is when the Trump campaign was aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation – and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion.

Earlier this year Mueller indicted 12 GRU intelligence officers for carrying out the hack, which began in March 2016.

In June of that year WikiLeaks emailed the GRU via an intermediary seeking the DNC material. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

According to sources, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Why Manafort sought out Assange in 2013 is unclear. During this period the veteran consultant was involved in black operations against Yanukovych’s chief political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Yanukovych had jailed. Manafort ran an extensive lobbying operation featuring European former politicians.

He flew frequently from the US to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev – usually via Frankfurt but sometimes through London, flight records seen by the Guardian show.

Manafort is currently in jail in Alexandria, Virginia. In August a jury convicted him of crimes arising from his decade-long activities in Ukraine. They include large-scale money laundering and failure to pay US tax. Manafort pleaded guilty to further charges in order to avoid a second trial in Washington.

As well as accusing him of lying on Monday, the special counsel moved to set a date for Manafort to be sentenced.

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential US state department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

According to the dossier written by the former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, Manafort was at the centre of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared”.

In a memo written soon after the DNC emails were published, Steele said: “The [hacking] operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.”

As a candidate Trump warmly welcomed the dump of DNC emails by Assange. In October 2016 he declared: “I love WikiLeaks.” Trump’s comments came after WikiLeaks released a second tranche of emails seized from the email account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

The Trump White House subsequently sent out mixed messages over Assange and his legal fate. In 2017 and behind the scenes Assange tried to reach a deal with Trump’s Department of Justice that might see him avoid US prison.

In May 2017,  Manafort flew to Ecuador to hold talks with the country’s president-elect Lenín Moreno. The discussions, days before Moreno was sworn in, and before Manafort was indicted – were ostensibly about a large-scale Chinese investment.

However, one source in Quito suggests that Manafort also discreetly raised Assange’s plight. Another senior foreign ministry source said he was sceptical Assange was mentioned. At the time Moreno was expected to continue support for him.

Last week a court filing released in error suggested that the US justice department had secretly charged Assange with a criminal offence. Written by the assistant US attorney, Kellen Dwyer, the document did not say what Assange had been charged with or when the alleged offence took place.

 

 

Trump blasts GM plan to cut plants, says he was ‘tough’ on CEO Mary Barra

November 26, 2018

by John Fritze and David Jackson

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump blasted a proposal by General Motors on Monday to sharply reduce the company’s workforce and close plants in Ohio, Michigan and other states where the president has touted the auto industry’s strength.

“This country has done a lot for General Motors,” Trump said as he departed the White House for a series of campaign events in Mississippi. “They better get back to Ohio and soon. So we have a lot of pressure on them.”

Trump said he spoke with General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra, insisting he was “very tough when I spoke to her.”

General Motors announced that is is killing several passenger cars, including the Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet Cruze. The moves are part of a sweeping $6 billion cost-cutting plan announced Monday. GM is poised to close plants in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Canada and cut 15 percent of its salaried workforce.

“They say the Chevy Cruze is not selling well. I said, ‘Well, get a car that is selling well and put it back in,’ ” Trump said. “I’m not happy about it.”

GM to kill Chevrolet Volt, Cruze, Impala as Americans ditch passenger cars

Trump has frequently touted the strength of the nation’s auto industry on the campaign trail.

“You have car plants moving into Michigan, moving into Ohio, moving into Pennsylvania, massive, massive companies,” Trump said during a rally in Ohio in August. “They’re all coming back and that means jobs.”

 

Trump threatens General Motors after announced closures in Midwest

Donald Trump has warned General Motors that it’s “playing around with the wrong person” following plans to close multiple plants in North America. Almost 15,000 jobs will be shed in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Ontario.

November 27, 2018

by Michael Da Silva

DW

General Motors (GM) may have delivered net income of close to $2.5 billion (€2.2 billion) in the third quarter of 2018 and be on a sound financial footing, but the company’s intention to cease operations in three Midwestern states and the Canadian province of Ontario has been met with disdain by the US president.

Plans were announced on Monday to cut the General Motors workforce by 15 percent in a move that will hit white-collar workers hardest, but would also see more than 6,000 production line jobs go as GM looks to invest in future technologies. These would most likely affect three assembly plants in Detroit, Ohio and Ontario as well as two factories in Michigan and Maryland that build transmissions and batteries.

“They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “I love Ohio. I told them ‘you’re playing around with the wrong person.'”

Trump added: “I said ‘I heard you’re closing your plant,'” he recalled from his conversation with Barra. “It’s not going to be closed for long, I hope, Mary, because if it is you have a problem.”

Trump’s threats come 16 months after Trump visited Ohio, a state he won in the 2016 election by more than 8 percentage points, and promised residents that their jobs are “all coming back”. However, the president’s policies have contributed to the problem according to GM, who have pointed towards rising costs for suppliers, namely steel tariffs.

Stefan Kooths, economics expert at the Kieler Institute, claims that the White House’s protectionist policies are starting to harm the American economy .

“We warned early on that these measures, such as protectionism in aluminium and steel, are rapidly spreading to other industries,” Kooths told DW. “Ultimately, the US economy suffers as much from these sanctions as the rest of the world. This will make everyone poorer and the American car industry will be the victims of US protectionism.

But Kooths warned that while tariffs and protectionist measures implemented by the White House are a contributory factor, they are not the only reason for the issues GM are facing.

“The problems of GM certainly do not go back only to the higher steel prices,” Kooths said. “They also have something to do with the need to re-adjust the model palette. Some chiefs are now too quick to push everything on the tariffs. But clearly these are the negative boomerang effects that then hit your own economy.”

GM say the decision was taken to help its investment in electric and autonomous vehicles, with Barra defending the decision as a pre-emptive step necessary to take during strong economic times to protect the company through future economic slowdown.

GM was bailed out by the American taxpayer a decade ago, with the company nationalized for a short period after the 2008 financial crisis.

 

Migrant caravan: Trump defends tear gas on Mexico border

November 27, 2018

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has defended the use of tear gas on a crowd of migrants, including children, trying to cross the US-Mexico border on Sunday.

Border agents were forced into action because they were “being rushed by some very tough people”, Mr Trump said.

Critics have accused the Trump administration of a draconian response, while Mexico has demanded the US investigate its use of tear gas.

Mexico says it has deported nearly 100 migrants who attempted to enter the US.

Sunday’s confrontation broke out after a migrants’ march in Tijuana spiralled out of control, with hundreds of migrants attempting to breach barriers separating Mexico from the US.

US Customs and Border Protection, which polices the border, said its personnel had been assaulted and hit by stones.

Women and children were among those trying to protect themselves from tear gas fired by the authorities, sparking condemnation from activists and some politicians.

What did Mr Trump say?

Speaking in Mississippi, Mr Trump said the border agents were right to use tear gas. “Here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally.”

He added that the gas used was “very safe” and was a “very minor form” of tear gas.

However, this was disputed by some journalists at the scene, who said the tear gas was painful even from a significant distance away.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tear gas can cause a burning sensation in the eyes and mouth, shortness of breath, and burns or rashes. Prolonged exposure can lead to blindness or breathing problems.

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the use of tear gas in war, but allows it for domestic law enforcement purposes.

How dangerous is tear gas?

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has defended the use of tear gas, saying border agents were entitled to “self-defence”.

However, Mexico’s foreign ministry sent the US government a diplomatic note expressing its concern about the use of non-lethal weapons, and calling for a full investigation.

Mr Trump also questioned why parents had taken their children to the site, and alleged that some of the people at the border were not parents, but “grabbers” who had taken children with them to improve their chances of asylum.

Ms Nielsen accused migrant caravan organisers of using women and children as “human shields” during their encounters with law enforcement, “putting vulnerable people in harm’s way”.

Mr Trump and Ms Nielsen did not provide evidence for their claims.

What do people at the border say?

About 7,500 migrants have arrived at the US-Mexican border in recent weeks.

The migrants, who are mostly from Honduras, but also from Guatemala and El Salvador, say they are fleeing the threat of violence in their home countries and looking to make a better life for themselves and their families.

A photograph of Maria Meza and two of her daughters escaping tear gas was widely circulated online, and used by several major newspapers.

Ms Meza, from Honduras, said she had not attempted to cross the border, and was only looking across the fence when the tear gas was used.

“I was scared,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I grabbed my daughters and ran… I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled.”

Meanwhile, a Honduran migrant at the border told AFP the US authorities had started using tear gas as they neared the border.

“The alarm went off and they began throwing tear gas at us. A person got hit and lots of kids fainted. So some people got rocks and threw them because many kids were fainting.”

The migrants have travelled in large groups, dubbed “caravans”, for more than 4,000km (2,500 miles) from Central America.

President Trump has vowed to keep each migrant on the Mexican side of the border until courts have decided their cases, meaning some face a long wait.

 

Kerch crisis: court orders Ukrainian sailor to be detained for two months

  • Prosecutions launched in Crimean court against Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia in Kerch strait on Sunday
  • Kerch strait Q&A: what happened and why does it matter?Kerch crisis: court orders Ukrainian sailor to be detained for two months

November 27 2018

by Andrew Roth in Kiev

The Guardian

A court in Crimea has ordered one of the 24 Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia at the weekend to be detained for two months, Russian media has reported.

The man faces a charge of illegally crossing Russian borders, which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison, Russian news agencies quoted an investigator as saying.

Russian border forces fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch strait, which separates Crimea from the Russian mainland, on Sunday. At least three sailors were wounded. Ukraine says they were travelling in shared waters on a routine passage to the Sea of Azov, which they have a right to patrol under a bilateral treaty.

The sailors are being be arraigned at a court in the city of Simferopol in Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

The decision to launch prosecutions is likely to deepen the latest crisis between the two countries, which has provoked international condemnation and talk of fresh western sanctions against Moscow.

Russian state television broadcast interrogations with three of the sailors on Tuesday, eliciting confessions that appeared to be made under duress. “I recognise that the actions of the ships with military hardware of Ukraine’s navy had a provocative character,” one of the sailors, who identified himself as Vladimir Lisov, said. “I was carrying out an order.”On Monday evening, the Ukrainian government declared martial law in some border regions and the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, said there was an “extremely serious” threat of a Russian land invasion.

Russia has been building up its naval presence and seeking to restrict Ukrainian access since completing a bridge across the strait in May. The Ukrainian government released video footage of one of its ships being rammed by a Russian vessel. On Tuesday, two Russian police officers with automatic rifles stood on the pier where the Ukrainian vessels were moored in Kerch, Reuters reported. The vessels bore traces of collisions and big holes in their hulls.

Ukraine’s state security service said its intelligence officers were among the crew and that they were fulfilling counter-intelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to “psychological and physical pressure” from Russian spy services. It did not elaborate, but demanded that Russia stop such activity. Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said on Monday that the presence of intelligence officers on board the Ukrainian ships, was a “provocation” staged by Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 but the hostilities have largely subsided since a truce was signed in 2015.

Senior politicians from Germany, Austria, Poland and Estonia raised the possibility of new EU sanctions against Russia to punish it for the Kerch incident, which the west fears could ignite a wider conflict.

The United Nations secretary general urged Russia and Ukraine to use “maximum restraint” and avoid further escalation, his spokesman said in a statement.

Antonio Guterres said he was “greatly concerned” about the incident near the Crimea peninsula near the Kerch Strait, calling on “both parties to exercise maximum restraint and to take steps without delay to contain this incident and reduce tensions”.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Monday and stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue, her spokesman said.

 

US, Europe & NATO risk all-out war by backing unhinged Kiev regime

November 27, 2018

by Finian Cunningham

RT

With the US, EU and NATO all bolstering claims of “Russian aggression” – in face of contrary evidence – the real danger is that the Kiev regime will be emboldened to carry out more reckless provocations leading to all-out war.

It seems indisputable that the three Ukrainian Navy vessels were dispatched last Sunday in order to instigate a security response from Russian maritime border forces. In contrast to normal procedures for passage clearance through the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian warships refused to communicate with Russian controls and acted menacingly inside Russia’s Black Sea territorial limits.

At a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Monday, the US, Britain and France pointedly refused to take on board Russia’s legal argument for why it felt obliged to detain the Ukrainian boats and 24 crew. The Western powers automatically sided with the version of events claimed by President Petro Poroshenko – that the Ukrainian Navy was attacked unlawfully by Russia.

The US, EU and NATO denounced Russia’s “aggression” and demanded that the Ukrainian vessels and crew be repatriated immediately, even though under Russian law there is a case for prosecution.

It is the West’s refusal to acknowledge facts that is part of the problem. Russia is continually accused of “annexing” Crimea in 2014 instead of the Western powers recognizing that the Black Sea peninsula voted in a constitutionally held referendum to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Crimea was prompted to take that historic step because the US, EU and NATO had only the month before backed an illegal coup in Kiev against the elected Ukrainian government. That coup brought to power the present Kiev regime led by Poroshenko and a parliament dominated by neo-Nazi parties.

So, the problem here is a refusal by Western supporters of the dubious Kiev regime to accept the legal, historic reality that Crimea is part of Russia’s territory. Ships passing through the Kerch Strait between Russia’s mainland and Crimea are obliged to notify Russian maritime controls of passage. Russia has since reopened the strait to civilian cargo transport following the naval skirmish at the weekend.

When the Ukrainian Navy vessels violated legal procedures and entered Russian territorial limits, their action was aggressive, not Russia’s response.

Furthermore, there are already emerging signs that the Ukrainian naval transport was orchestrated for the purpose of inciting an incident.

Some of the detained crew members have admitted carrying out orders which they knew would be seen by Russia as provocative.

It has also been reported by US government-owned Radio Free Europe that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) have confirmed that its officers were among the crew on the boats. The vessels were also armed. If the transfer was an innocent passage, why were secret services involved?

Recall that Ukrainian secret services have previously been caught staging sabotage operations in Crimea.

Another major background factor is the increasing NATO military buildup in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the 19km bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea in May earlier this year, there were calls in US and Ukrainian media for the structure to be sabotaged. Moscow has understandably stepped up security controls around the vital infrastructure, which cost $3.7 billion and is the longest bridge in Europe.

In recent months, the US and Britain have ordered increasing military deployment to the region under the guise of “training” and “assistance” to the Kiev regime forces.

Earlier this year, in July, the NATO alliance held naval drills, Sea Breeze, along with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea. That’s in spite of the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although it is aspiring to join the 29-member US-led bloc at some time in the future.

It was the following month, in August, that Russia began stepping up its controls and searches of vessels through the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The latter leads to ports under the control of the Kiev regime such as Mariupol, which is adjacent to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic. The DPR and Luhansk People’s Republic broke away following the coup in Kiev in 2014 and have been under military attack for the past four years despite the so-called Minsk peace treaties. These are more facts that the Western backers of the Kiev regime refuse to deal with.

More NATO buildup continued in September with the supply of two gunboats by the US to the Ukrainian Navy for deployment in the Sea of Azov. Pentagon-linked publication Defense One described that supply as part of efforts by Washington and Kiev to develop a “mosquito navy” in order to skirmish with Russian forces.

Only four days before the latest naval clash, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson announced the Royal Navy was to send HMS ‘Echo’ to patrol with Ukrainian special forces to “defend freedom and democracy.” Williamson said: “As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, the United Kingdom will be a steadfast partner.”

This is background to the simmering tensions in the Black Sea between Ukraine and Russia. The situation has arisen because of Western interference in Ukraine – primarily the coup in Kiev in February 2014. Yet, in all discussions about events since then, the Western powers are in denial of facts and their culpability. The recent militarization of the Black Sea by the NATO alliance is a stark provocation to Russia’s national security, but again the Western powers bury their collective heads in the sand.

Given the reckless indulgence by the US, Europe and NATO of the Kiev regime amid its ongoing violations against the populace in eastern Ukraine, its refusal to abide by the Minsk agreements, and its continual inflammatory and unhinged rhetoric against Russia, it should not be surprising if this same regime feels emboldened to provoke an armed confrontation with Moscow.

Arguably, the Kiev regime and its adulation of World War II Nazi collaborators never had any legitimacy in the first place. It continues to demonstrate its lack of legitimacy from the immense social problems in Ukraine of poverty, corruption, human rights violations, neo-Nazi paramilitaries running amok, and now martial law being imposed.

It remains to be seen if the recent naval provocation was carried out with the tacit approval of Washington and other NATO powers as a pretext for further militarization against Russia. The initial misplaced condemnations of Russia have subsided to more measured calls from US President Donald Trump and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for “restraint” and “dialogue.”

That might suggest Kiev’s failing President Poroshenko and his security services acted alone to order the naval confrontation as a desperate throw of the dice to escalate NATO and EU support for his shaky regime against Russia.

Trump’s comments hoping that Kiev and Russia would “straighten things out” sound like Washington is not behind the provocation and has no desire for a wider conflict. Just as well, because such a development is a gateway to all-out war.

Nevertheless, such a catastrophe is always a serious risk when Western powers indulge this unhinged Kiev regime.

 

Russia’s $11 Billion Natural Gas Pipeline Is Primed to Fuel Europe

The controversial Nord Stream 2 could start pumping late next year. 

November 16, 2018

by Lars Paulsson and William Wilkes

Bloomberg

In the shadows of a long-silent East German nuclear reactor on the edge of the Baltic Sea, engineers are drilling, dredging, and digging in a forest clearing. As one set of workers shifts contaminated concrete and other radioactive materials from the Soviet-designed Greifswald plant, half a kilometer away contractors for Gazprom PJSC are building the latest monument to Europe’s growing dependence on Russia for energy: the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Germany could receive more gas pumped directly from Siberian fields as soon as late next year.

The $11 billion pipeline is one of three giant projects helping the world’s biggest gas producer strengthen its grip on Europe and Asia. Thousands of miles to the east, the Power of Siberia pipeline will connect with China, and a project under the Black Sea will deliver fuel to Turkey and southeast Europe.

Russia has sold gas to Europe since World War II, meeting more than a third of the Continent’s demand last year. That share could rise to 40 percent by 2025 if increased demand from China and its Asian neighbors, and higher prices, continue to tempt liquefied natural gas tankers eastward, says Jonathan Stern, a distinguished research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “Expensive energy is back, mainly driven by China,” says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “We’re seeing record gas imports from Russia.” The decline of Groningen, the giant Dutch gas field, has also increased Europe’s import demand.

President Donald Trump, keen to sell natural gas to Europe and capitalize on the U.S. shale boom, has described Germany as “captive” to Moscow. Last year he signed legislation giving him the right to sanction companies involved in Nord Stream 2, including five European partners that are helping fund it. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Oct. 3 that the pipeline, whose older sibling runs roughly along the same route and began delivering fuel in 2011, would be built even if the other companies pulled out.

Nord Stream 2 also has detractors closer to home. Poland, which has a fractured relationship with its former Soviet ally, nixed the formation of a joint venture of European energy companies that would work with Gazprom on the pipeline. The country still buys Russian gas but plans to replace it with fuel from Norway and other countries when its contract expires by the end of 2022.

The German government and its biggest utilities point to a commercial relationship with Russia that’s survived the Cold War as well as increasing tensions over Ukraine. “They’ve been a reliable supplier for the last 50 to 60 years,” says Thomas Bareiss, Germany’s state secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. “And Russia needs to talk to the European Union. It keeps us talking.”

Russian natural gas exports to Europe are having another banner year, after the country shipped a record 6.8 trillion cubic feet in 2017. But Andree Stracke, chief commercial officer at the trading unit of German utility RWE AG, isn’t worried by Gazprom’s increasing hold on the market. “At some point, politicians need to say if they are concerned, but for us it is business,” he says. “It is a free accessible market. Whoever wants to sell is welcome to sell their volumes.”

Gazprom has also had to adjust to how the European market has evolved. Since gas is now its own traded commodity, its price is less closely linked to the cost of crude oil and more informed by local natural gas prices.

Demand for gas could soar after Germany shuts down its last nuclear reactor by 2022 and retires more coal plants, according to Ralf Bickel, a senior energy adviser at Nord Stream 2. “Having additional supply from Russia puts Europe in a much more comfortable situation,” he says. —With Anna Shiryaevskaya, Reed Landberg, Dina Khrennikova, and Elena Maznev

No responses yet

Leave a Reply