TBR News September 20, 2015

Sep 20 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. September 19, 2015:A very informative, and very well-connected, neighbor has been speaking with us about very imporant, often astonishing, national and international matters. His family connections are beyond question and we have spent the last few weeks making copious notes of our meetings.

Let us discuss an entertaining story concerning  Central Intelligence Agency officers operating out of the US Embassy in Moscow, involving disguise techniques such as dress-changing when communicating with their informers.
Discussed here are disguise techniques used by the wife of CIA agent Robert Hynes.
The CIA agent’s wife Laura Carlson and the wife of yet another CIA agent, Janice Chisholm, could be observed on surveillance tapes,  leaving the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and heading to a coffee shop.
Having entered the coffee shop, Chisholm went to the toilet while Carlson waited for her near the door. A while later, a man in a hat went out of the toilet and hastily left the coffee shop.
It transpired that this was a U.S. intelligence officer, Timothy Finnegan, and that the brunette who walked into the toilet was actually him.
Laura Carlson collected the disguise kit from the toilet. A few minutes later she met her husband Hynes and his colleague Steven Chisholm, whose wife the U.S. spy was made over to look like, in the coffee shop.
The spectacle with makeup and impersonations was played out by the foreigners in the hope that CIA officer Timothy Finnegan would shake off Russian counter-intelligence to be able to meet with his informer, the television program said.
Also could be seen  a Russian surveillance video of a man wearing a hat, glasses and a carrying a baby in his hands on a more than one hour-long walk in frosty weather in Moscow. The baby turned out to be a doll used as a disguise by CIA agent John Granos, who was expecting to meet a contact. Granos is officially a secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
Other easily-observed deceptive methodology used by U.S. intelligence officers, have included a transformer bag seized from Ryan Fogle, which easily turned into a rucksack and changed color.
Fogle was caught in Russia as he was trying to recruit a Russian FSB  officer. He also actively used dress-changing and hid on the floor of a car. It turned out that the spy was using as cover, the minor diplomatic position of third secretary at the political department of the U.S. Embassy.
It is also known to the FSP that the CIA has been ordered by Washington to locate and kill Edward Snowden, the American computer specialist, now resident near Moscow. The CIA people have been scouring the Moscow underworld, trying to locate a putative assassin but it is well-known that American intelligence does not back up its helpers and at the least sign of trouble, dumps them into the arms of its enemies.”

Holding a mirror to the US – on exceptionalism, double standards & global police supra-state

September 12, 2015

by Catherine Shakdam


As the Middle East continues to descend into madness, wrecked by wars and convulsed by human tragedies, America stands at the center of it all – the grand engineer of instability, the architect of a world system which cornerstone is profoundly ademocratic.

For well over a decade now the world has been force-fed American exceptionalism; taught to believe that America knows best what the world needs, how it needs to be organized and more importantly under whose leadership countries should be allowed to function.

Any challenge to Washington’s authority and its supra-national moral legitimacy have systematically been met by furious media slander and threats of sanctions – Russia, more than any other country knows what it cost to stand up to this new American political deity.

The self-appointed political world police, the US has run, dominated and of course dictated the world’s media narrative, playing democratic mind games with a gullible public while pursuing violent covert agendas. The Middle East of course has stood at the epicenter of this grand play for regime change and race for control.

If you thought America’ s military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9/11 only exacerbated tensions, adding more fire to the predetermined narrative of perpetual war, then what of the destruction which has rained on Libya, Syria and now Yemen? Where exactly will the drones and tanks stop? How many communities will have to be laid waste before this prodigal democratic era US politicians have so fervently talked about actually manifests itself?

We have gone so far down the rabbit hole that people have become desensitized to human rights violations, breaches in privacy laws and blatant disregard for international law, all in the name of evasive national security.

With US politicians running the rationale of fear on all platforms available, reason and logic have been labeled under temporary insanity and conspiracy. According to Washington, the world needs direction – the type of righteous direction only America can give since its very constitution stands the perfect expression of all things fiercely democratic and freedom perfect. In this Orwellian play we find ourselves stuck in, all countries have been made-to-measure to Washington’s political standards and expectations. Democratic devolution you say?

I would argue this train has already left the station. We have now entered the uncharted territories of a US-run supra-national police state system, where globalism rhymes with authoritarianism. A brave new world indeed.

So Arab leaders are dictatorial and despicably abusive toward their own people, or so the US says. Well in most cases that’s true enough, but that never stopped the US or other Western capitals for that matter to develop close economic and political ties with them. Funny how dutiful America only woke up to the horrors of Arab fascism when nations began clamoring for independence.

From Muammar Gaddafi to Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran, Washington’s friends and allies have not exactly been choir boys – more the who’s who of the world most violent tyrants.

But that’s not even the point. The point is, when a country decides to drop names and list offenses it better make sure that its own government is not committing the very crimes it finds so revolting in others.

US officials today have justified their intervention in Syria by arguing terror militants need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency to protect Western democracies. Those same officials have, in the same breath, argued that “moderate” radicals should be used to depose Syrian President Bashar Al Assad as the latter no longer holds popular legitimacy. The rationale here is that a democratically elected head of state should be actively brought down by way of terrorism to help promote stability. I have to say, I’m confused here.

More confusing still, in recent weeks Russia was slammed for allegedly planning to actively oppose ISIS militants in Syria. You would think that Western powers would actually hail counter-terrorism efforts. Wrong! As far as Washington is concerned only it can wield military force to oppose terror – anyone else’s efforts are illegal.

Commenting on the matter on September 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed, “As we are facing unfounded accusations that we are doing something illegal and reinforcing the ISIL, I’d recommend watching the coalition’s actions.” He added, “I am convinced that coordinated efforts are quite possible if double standards are rejected.”

And indeed, double standards stand at the core of all the world’s problems.

For example, when asked why President Assad lost all legitimacy officials and analysts have intermittently advanced that his rule was forfeited the second he began targeting his own people for political advancement. The same rhetoric has held for Libya, Yemen, Iraq and everything in between.

Since 9/11 America has moved in a higher plane of morality, on account of its political, economic and military might.

But let’s turn the mirror around for a second and see what reflects back.

Wasn’t it America which gifted the world with such things as renditions, institutionalized surveillance, black sites, systematic tortures, ethno-religious profiling and other niceties?

Wasn’t it America again which opened an illegal black hole when its leaders decided that unmanned drones should enter the military fray as murdering weapons of choice?

America has no lesson to give when it comes to democracy building and legitimacy … and it certainly cannot claim to any form of exceptionalism; not when it has so much blood on its hands and not when it has committed so very few funds to humanitarian aid.

If anything Washington officials have mastered the art of terror-propping and radical-funding – from Ukraine to Syria, America has some of the world most despicable characters on its payroll … All for the greater good of course.


AIPAC Spent Millions of Dollars to Defeat the Iran Deal. Instead, It May Have Destroyed Itself.

The powerful Israel lobby has been badly damaged, and that’s good news for both Palestinians and Israelis.

September 11, 2015

by M.J. Rosenberg

The Nation

It is hard to exaggerate the damage inflicted on AIPAC by the congressional defeat of its efforts to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal. It is not as if AIPAC won’t live to fight again, because it will, but this defeat has ruptured the status quo, possibly forever.

The extent of its efforts to defeat the deal was unprecedented even for a lobby known for its no-holds-barred wars against past White House initiatives it considered unfriendly to Israel, going all the way back to the Ford administration. AIPAC, and its cutout Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran, reportedly budgeted upwards of $20 million for a campaign that included flooding the airwaves with television spots; buying full-page newspaper ads, arranging fly-ins of AIPAC members to Washington, organizing demonstrations at offices of AIPAC-friendly members of Congress who were believed to be wavering, and ensuring that problematic legislators were officially warned by precisely the right donor. Rank-and-file AIPAC members were largely irrelevant to the process. Money did the talking, and also the yelling and the cursing when necessary. As one congressional staffer put it to me, “Taking money from AIPAC is like getting a loan from the mob. You better not forget to pay it back. They walk into this office like they own it.”

AIPAC is not a mass-membership organization. It claims 100,000 members, which probably means it has fewer than that. But no matter, it is, or was until now, viewed as speaking for all 6 million American Jews. In fact, whenever it testifies on Capitol Hill, it says it is speaking for the entire organized community. The truth, however, is that 82 percent of American Jews belong to no Jewish organizations at all, meaning not only that there is no organization that speaks for them, but that no organization even knows exactly who they are.

Legislators believe that AIPAC is the Jewish voice because (again, until now) that is what they heard from their Jewish donors. Although only 4 to 6 percent of American Jews cast their votes based on Israel policy, and even though Jews have voted consistently Democratic since 1928 (about 70 percent voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012), the donor class led by AIPAC has convinced politicians both that Jews are primarily interested in Israel and that their votes are in play, when, in reality, Jews are the most unwavering of Democrats, second only to African-Americans. And much the same dynamic is at play when it comes to Iran. In fact, the one scientific poll of Jews on attitudes toward the Iran deal showed 49 percent for it, with 31 percent against. (Writing in the September 9 Washington Post, Harold Meyerson explains exactly where the Jewish community stands today, a picture that is very different from the one painted by AIPAC.)

So why don’t politicians know this?

In 2008, I met with then Senator Barack Obama (I was working for a pro-Israel organization at the time) and asked him if he would, if elected president, listen to pro-peace Jewish voices on Israel or just AIPAC. He said, “I can’t hear you.” Taking him literally, I spoke louder.

He said, that no, what he meant was that, on Israel, he almost exclusively heard from the lobby. “Back home, I hear from my AIPAC friend, Rosenberg, every week. Is he your cousin? Anyway, your side needs to organize. You need to make your voice heard so I can’t ignore you.”

That wish was answered by J Street, which, with Obama’s help, has become the anti-AIPAC. J Street doesn’t have the money AIPAC has, and it probably never will. But during the battle over the Iran deal it acted as a counterweight to AIPAC, playing a major role in destroying both the media’s and Congress’s conception of a Jewish community united behind Netanyahu.

Those efforts played a role in AIPAC’s defeat, a process that really took off when Obama started inviting J Street to the White House whenever he met with the old-guard Jewish organizations like AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Obama told me that he wanted progressive Jewish voices to speak louder; he didn’t say that he would create the amplifier. But he did.

But J Street didn’t do a fraction as much to defeat AIPAC as AIPAC and the Netanyahu government did themselves. Starting as far back as 2008, when the Israeli leadership first had to consider that Barack Obama would likely win the election, it did not take kindly to the president. Media reports told of Israelis being immune to the Obama mania that had seized the planet. Maybe it was his middle name or maybe something else. In 2012, Netanyahu all but endorsed Mitt Romney, allowing his associates to denigrate the president.

Netanyahu’s animus came to a head when his ambassador to the United States arranged for him to speak to a joint meeting of Congress about Iran this past March, without even letting the White House know that the prime minister was planning a visit. Netanyahu came and—how else to put this?—dissed the president of the United States in his own capital.

At that moment, the battle against the Iran agreement became a partisan battle: Likud and the Republicans against the American president and the Democrats. That never changed. In the end, the majority of Republicans in Congress lined up against the deal, while all but a couple dozen Democrats lined up for it. The Israelis and the Republicans either forgot that they would need Democrats to win or thought that, with sufficient inducements, they would come around. Ultimately, they lost that bet.

Still, it was not preordained; Netanyahu and his allies on the American right had a real shot at winning if they had not turned Israel into a Republican plaything. But they crossed that Rubicon and it will be hard crossing back. The bipartisan love affair with Israel has cooled. In the future, AIPAC’s influence will depend, more than ever before, on whether or not legislators believe they can safely defy it.

AIPAC’s power is built on the belief that it cannot be challenged with impunity, a belief that is on the verge of being exposed as illusory. When Senator Chuck Schumer, AIPAC’s Senate enforcer on Israel-related issues, cannot even deliver his and New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, it is clear that the bad old days of lobby intimidation may be passing. When as stalwart an AIPAC supporter as Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz defects because she fears that choosing AIPAC over a Democratic president could cost her the post she holds as chair of the Democratic National Committee, the power dynamic has clearly changed. When Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents more Orthodox Jews than any other member of Congress, tells AIPAC that he won’t be with them this time, it is impossible not to sense a political earthquake.

In 2014, it was hard to find a single Jewish member of Congress (not even Senator Bernie Sanders) who would break with AIPAC’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza. One year later, nine of 11 Jewish senators and most of the Jewish House members are bucking AIPAC and the Israeli government on, of all things, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iran nuclear issue, more than any other, was one on which AIPAC could not afford to lose. That is because imposing and then maintaining sanctions on Iran has been the primary focus of the lobby for two decades. It was in 1994 that AIPAC published a 76-page policy document, “Comprehensive U.S. Sanctions Against Iran: A Plan for Action,” calling for legislation to impose a full embargo on trade with Iran by the United States, along with an added “secondary boycott” mechanism by which the United States would also impose sanctions on foreign entities that traded with Iran. By 1996, the AIPAC-drafted Iran-sanctions bill was law, made more comprehensive and onerous each time it was renewed.

True, AIPAC also uses its power to prevent US recognition of a Palestinian state, but in recent years Palestine has taken a back seat to Iran as the primary focus of the lobby. That may be because Iran is infinitely more of a threat to Israel’s regional interests than the Palestinians, or because it believes it is easier to achieve a consensus in the “pro-Israel” community against the hateful mullahs than the hapless Palestinians. After all, who could possibly believe that the Palestinians could imperil Israel’s existence? Yet that idea is central to AIPAC’s entire campaign against the Iran deal.

Ironically, and happily for those who had despaired of making headway on the Palestinian issue, AIPAC’s Iran defeat presages difficulties for the lobby on that front too. After this, it is harder to imagine Congress standing in mute silence, as it has in the past, the next time the Israeli government decides to teach the Palestinians another one of its bloody lessons about the need to accept occupation without resistance.

But that depends on what happens now. I referred earlier to the belief, almost universally held in Congress, that legislators cannot defy AIPAC with impunity. I said that belief is on the verge of being shown to be an illusion. What I mean is this: Either legislators who supported the Iran deal (particularly those representing states or districts with a significant number of Jewish voters) face AIPAC-generated reelection difficulties in primaries or the general election, or AIPAC will be revealed to be nothing but a paper tiger.

After all, it is the fear of reelection problems that keeps most legislators in line. Even those from “safe” states or districts fear campaign funds’ being directed to their opponents or simply kept away from them.

That is how AIPAC works. Back in the 1980s, when I was an AIPAC employee, I shared an office with the staffer whose job was to advise both the pro-Israel PACs and the big individual donors on whom to give to and whom to boycott. AIPAC had lists of candidates to help and candidates to hurt, and it made its views known to anyone who asked and many who didn’t. No, it did not fund candidates itself but its staffers and wealthy captains around the country put out the definitive word on who was a friend and who was an enemy. Over the years, some of those enemies went down to defeat, but many more had to work surprisingly hard to prevail over (suddenly) well-funded opponents.

Fortunately for AIPAC, there have never been that many “enemies” that needed punishment. There are few Israel-related votes and, when they have come along, few legislators vote “wrong.” The biggest Israel vote is on the Israel aid package, which is part of the overall foreign-aid budget and has not been controversial for years. Instead, the fear factor comes in on votes relating to aid to Palestinians; supporting and opposing a Palestinian state; Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza; and the idea of linking aid to Israel to its commitment to the peace process and human rights. It is on issues like these that Israel could claim the support of a thoroughly intimidated Congress. Until now, Iran policy was also on that list, with legislators rushing to curry support with AIPAC donors by taking a hard line on all issues related to Iran.

But not after this week. Suddenly AIPAC is being defied by hundreds of senators and representatives on an issue it has deemed a matter of life or death for Israel.

What does it do to maintain its deterrent capacity? Does it instigate primaries or steer campaign contributions away from most of the Democrats in Congress, including many who have been, until now, its closest allies? Or does it, accepting the impossibility of taking them all on, give them a pass? Or does it give some a pass and not others?

One thing is certain. The only way for AIPAC to remain the force it has been is by going after its enemies. And winning. And not just in 2016 but in 2018 and 2020, in a series of cycles of retribution. If it doesn’t do that, it will become a shell of its former self, only able to deliver noncontroversial votes on matters directly related to the survival of Israel and largely useless where US and Israeli security interests clash, as with Iran. That last category includes, most notably, the Palestinian issue, which has undermined US national interests for decades, but on which our hands have been tied by fear of AIPAC retribution.

At this point, no one can predict what will happen but I’ll venture a guess. AIPAC will not take on those who opposed it on Iran. On the contrary, it will try to get back in their good graces.

And the next time a vote comes up where legislators are torn, it is just possible that they will vote their conscience—one way or another—without worrying too much about what AIPAC will do. And that will be good news for everyone, including the State of Israel. But mostly for the United States.



Officials Cover Up Housing Bubble’s Scummy Residue: Fraudulent Foreclosure Documents

September 14, 2015

by David Dayen

The Intercept

Every day in America, mortgage companies attempt to foreclose on homeowners using false documents.

It’s a byproduct of the mortgage securitization craze during the housing bubble, when loans were sliced and diced so haphazardly that the actual ownership was confused.

When the bubble burst, lenders foreclosing on properties needed paperwork to prove their standing, but didn’t have it — leading mortgage industry employees to forge, fabricate and backdate millions of mortgage documents. This foreclosure fraud scandal was exposed in 2010, and acquired a name: “robo-signing.”

But while some of the offenders paid fines over the past few years, nobody cleaned up the documents. This rot still exists inside the property records system all over the country, and those in a position of authority appear determined to pretend it doesn’t exist.

In two separate cases, activists have charged that officials and courts are hiding evidence of mortgage document irregularities that, if verified, could stop thousands of foreclosures in their tracks. Officials have delayed disclosure of this evidence, the activists believe, because it would be too messy, and it’s easier to bottle up the evidence than deal with the repercussions.

All they’re doing is making a mockery of our judicial system,” said Bill Paatalo, a private investigator and one of the activists.

Like many other anti-foreclosure activists, Paatalo got involved with the issue through a case involving his own property — in Absarokee, Montana. Like many homeowner loans purchased during the housing bubble, Paatalo’s was packaged into a mortgage-backed security.

The process worked like this: The loans were eventually sold into a tax-exempt REMIC (Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit) trust; the REMIC trust received monthly mortgage payments from homeowners; and the payments were passed along to investors in the mortgage-backed securities.

The trust where Paatalo’s mortgage ended up is known as “WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Services 2007-OA3 Trust.” When he faced foreclosure, the trust, as the nominal owner of the mortgage, was the plaintiff.

In doing research for his own trial, Paatalo discovered that all “foreign business trusts” established outside of Montana have to register with the Secretary of State in order to transact business, under Title 35-5-201 of the Montana code. Trustees must file an application, along with legal affidavits affirming its trust agreement and identifying all trustees, and pay a $70 filing fee.

WaMu Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates Services 2007-OA3 Trust — based in Delaware — didn’t.

That means that the trust could not acquire property in Montana — precisely what it was alleging it did in Paatalo’s foreclosure case. An affidavit from Tana Gormely, a deputy for the Business Services Division in the Montana Secretary of State’s office, confirms that the 2007-OA3 trust “is not registered with our office as required by law.”

The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the legal significance of non-registration in an April 2011 case, Estate of Reeder v. Olsen. There, the Supreme Court agreed with a lower court decision that, since trusts prepared in Colorado for Montana resident Christine Reeder before her death did not register with the state, the property of Reeder’s estate could not be conveyed to them. And the court said they could not “retroactively validate themselves” either.

By those rules, all Montana foreclosures involving a REMIC trust not based in Montana would be illegal and unenforceable unless they had properly registered. Even completed foreclosures would be subject to wrongful foreclosure claims.

In depositions for Paatalo’s case, lawyers for Mackoff Kellogg, the primary law firm handling foreclosures in Montana (including Paatalo’s), admitted that they didn’t know anything about requirements of registration of trusts. A shareholder and secretary with the law firm mistakenly said in deposition testimony that trusts do not have to register. If the leading firm doing foreclosures isn’t aware of the statute, Paatalo believes, it’s likely that no registration was done in the majority of cases.

Paatalo raised the unregistered business trust issue in his foreclosure case in both state and federal court. He has been waiting since May for the state court to rule on his motion that the trust cannot operate in Montana. “The judge didn’t even dispute the evidence,” Paatalo said. “We’re going into the fourth month and he refuses to rule.”

There is no timeline in the Stillwater County, Montana court for a ruling in Paatalo’s case. In Gallatin County, Montana, clients of Paatalo’s private investigator business have also filed motions to dismiss their cases, armed with certifications from the Secretary of State that their trusts were unregistered, but no judges have yet ruled on them.

It appears the judges don’t want to enforce the law,” Paatalo said.

Paatalo asked the Montana Attorney General’s office to investigate whether the business trusts were avoiding state taxes by not registering. He says they’ve done nothing. “They refuse to do anything because they want to assist in loan modifications,” Paatalo said.

The Attorney General’s office declined to comment. Paatalo added that the Stillwater County clerk, Sandy Fox, refused to answer his questions; Fox also didn’t respond to my request for comment.

Title 35 is clear and unambiguous,” Paatalo said. “They circumvented and short-cutted every one of these laws. The judges don’t know what to do.”

In Seattle, anti-foreclosure activist Karen Pooley spent six years unsuccessfully trying to get King County, Washington, to fund an audit of the land records there. Similar audits in Essex County, Massachusetts, and San Francisco County, California, revealed significant percentages of fraudulent and invalid mortgage documents.

Pooley successfully lobbied the Seattle City Council to fund a limited audit of King County records for city homeowners. Marie McDonnell, the forensic analyst who performed the Massachusetts audit, was contracted for the job.

The audit was finalized several weeks ago, Pooley says — but the city refuses to release it publicly.

Pooley has seen the audit — she mistakenly received a copy from the city auditor — and says it “calls into question documents within the recording office.” But when she asked the city when she could distribute the audit, “they were freaked out that I got a copy.” Pooley has agreed for now to keep the audit confidential, but she has demanded that the city release the findings, to no avail.

The Seattle city auditor, city attorney and the office of Councilmember Nick Licata, who initially requested the land record audit, all declined comment.

Pooley wants to use the audit to lobby the Washington legislature for improved consumer protections for homeowners facing foreclosure. Other states, like Hawaii, reacted to the foreclosure fraud scandal by placing heavy sanctions on banks that file fraudulent documents with the land records office.

In Washington, mortgage companies do not have to go to court to foreclose on borrowers. There is no current monetary penalty in Washington for producing false affidavits to prove standing to foreclose. Attempts to create a monetary penalty have failed. “All pro-homeowner legislation has been killed by the bankers,” Pooley said.

The land records audit could also be useful in King County foreclosure cases, as evidence of widespread fraud. Attorneys attempting to challenge foreclosures in Washington have been stymied from using the Essex County or San Francisco audits because they aren’t applicable to local cases. A King County audit would have more legitimacy in state courts.

In both of these cases, evidence of fraudulent activity harming homeowners has either been suppressed or not acted upon. Refusing to investigate illegal actions is an effective way of remaining in denial. But refusing to release the contents of those investigations, or refusing to rule on cases where the illegal actions have already been proven, really takes denial to the extreme.

In November 2010, Georgetown law professor Adam Levitin explained in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee why there were no real investigations of bank misconduct during the foreclosure crisis.

Federal regulators don’t want to get this information, because they are too scared that if there is a problem, they’re going to have to do something about it,” Levitin said.


Is Russia Invading Syria? If Washington won’t take on Islamists, Putin will

September 14, 2015

by Justin Raimondo


Having given up waiting for the supposedly “imminent” Russian assault on Kiev, which we’ve been told for lo these many months is coming down the pike momentarily, our new cold warriors are now in a frenzy over the sudden discovery of a Russian presence in Syria. It started in the Israeli media, and then spread outward in waves, emanating various levels of hysteria. Ynet “reported”:

According to Western diplomats, a Russian expeditionary force has already arrived in Syria and set up camp in an Assad-controlled airbase. The base is said to be in area surrounding Damascus, and will serve, for all intents and purposes, as a Russian forward operating base.

In the coming weeks thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots who will operate the aircraft.”

The Western media soon took up the cry: “The Russians are coming!” But by the time this old cold war meme spread to Reuters “thousands” had inexplicably shrunk down to what sounded more like dozens. Unnamed US officials pointed to “a small number of naval infantry forces.” Oh, but don’t worry, the Russians are coming: “They have started in small numbers,” one anonymous Lebanese source confided to Reuters, “but the bigger force did not yet take part.” Where is this “bigger force”? No doubt right behind those Russian troops who have been about to march on Kiev for the past year or so.

Aside from the inflated numbers of this “Russian expeditionary force,” there is also the overwrought response to the addition of a few more Russian advisors on the scene: after all, as Ishaan Tharoor points out in the Washington Post, there is nothing new about the Russian presence in Syria. They’ve been there since 1971, when Leonid Brezhnev signed an agreement with Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar al-Assad, the current head of the Ba’athist regime. Russia has been a major source of weapons for the Syrian military, and many top Ba’athist officials were educated in the old Soviet Union. In short, there is nothing new about the Russo-Syrian alliance: Putin has backed Assad in his war against the Islamist rebels from the get-go.

So why is the media now in a frothy-mouthed frenzy over this latest “discovery” of Russian “aggression”? Why is John Kerry on the phone with the Kremlin warning them to back off?

ISIS is edging toward central Damascus, and is already in the suburbs. US airstrikes have been ineffective, and indeed the “everything’s coming up roses” scenario officially promulgated by the Obama regime has been thoroughly debunked by rebellious intelligence analysts, who have a far different story to tell.

The reality is that Washington’s real target in Syria isn’t ISIS, it’s Assad. The phony war against the Islamic State has enabled the would-be Caliphate to expand its control of territory until the very existence of the Ba’athist regime is now problematic. The US program that is supposed to be training “moderate” Islamist rebels wound up deploying around 50 “vetted” fighters – who were promptly killed and captured by Al Qaeda, including the leader. And their captors were more than likely former US-funded “moderates,” who have defected to ISIS and al-Nusra (Al Qaeda) in droves.

The US has repeatedly rejected Russian attempts to parlay a peaceful settlement that would include the Ba’athist regime, and specifically Assad, as one of the participants. The “moderate” rebels, such as they are, also reject such a proposal – and of course ISIS and al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of the official Al-Qaeda organization, are interested only in deposing the “infidel” Assad and slaughtering those Christians, Alawites, and Druze still resident in Syria.

Washington’s alignment with the Islamists goes much further, however, as the line between “moderate” Islamists and “extremists” – never clear to begin with – gets blurrier by the hour. For now we have none other than former CIA chief David Petraeus calling for an alliance with “moderate” elements in Al Qaeda.

Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging US officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the US persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.”

Given his former job, one has to wonder if this is a proposal or a defense of an ongoing policy. Before his disgrace in a sex-and-security scandal, Petraeus was certainly in a position to carry out this loopy idea. Indeed, he argued for arming the Syrian rebels, along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Obama vetoed the plan, which would have put US arms in the hands of radical Islamists, but who knows what shenanigans Petraeus and his fellow spooks were up to before the President put the kibosh on his plan? We know that arms from fallen Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi’s storehouses found their way to the Syrian battlefield. How did they get there? We know that entire platoons of US-trained “moderate” rebels defected to ISIS and al-Nusra almost as soon as they hit the battlefield – but who “vetted” them?

The Petraeus proposal merely makes explicit what was our covert policy all along: the destruction of Assad’s regime even if that means handing Syria over to the folks who brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon.

The Russians have good reason to fear a jihadist state in Syria, what with the Chechen Islamists marauding throughout the Caucasus and central Asia. They are quite well aware that Washington would like to do to Putin what they’re doing to Assad – and that the West has no compunctions about allying with the heirs of Osama bin Laden in order to pull it off. US and British support to the Chechens is a matter of record – yet more evidence that the vaunted “war on terrorism” is just a façade for the same old regime-change game.

The Syrian government, in spite of its brutality, enjoys widespread support – after all, consider the alternative. It is also the only major fighting force on the ground resisting the advance of ISIS and Al Qaeda. To demand Assad’s ouster while claiming to fight “terrorism” is absurd. And remember that the same people who are self-righteously declaring “Assad must go” because he’s not a nice guy are openly backing the Saudis in their vicious assault on Yemen, where thousands are being slaughtered in a merciless air campaign made possible by US complicity.

This is where we are fourteen years after 9/11 – in a de facto alliance with radical jihadists who want to establish a “caliphate” in Syria.

Oh, and by the way: we have always been at war with Eastasia.


Syria conflict: Russia sends signal over future role in region

September 15, 2015

by Jonathan Marcus

BBC Diplomatic correspondent

Despite Russian denials that anything unusual is going on, the evidence is building of a significant Russian logistical effort in Syria to back the Assad regime.

The airfield at Latakia in north-western Syria is the focus of the Russian effort.

Several heavy Antonov military transport aircraft have arrived there over recent days and two landing ships carrying vehicles and other equipment have docked at the port of Tartus where Russia maintains a small naval base.

Moscow insists on the one hand that it is supplying “humanitarian aid” to Syria; though equally it also admits that it is continuing its long-standing policy of arming President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. And where Russian equipment goes, so too do Russian advisers and trainers.

But what is going on suggests activity of an altogether different scale.

In the contemporary world there is a range of “open-source” intelligence assets that help to betray the growing Russian presence. Civil satellite images, for example, show extensive expansion and re-building at the Latakia air base with the runway being widened along its length; new accommodation; a new control tower; and lots of new concrete hard-standing.

Concrete is one of the more prosaic elements of military power but if you want to send aircraft to a location in large numbers and quickly, what you need is a surface on which they can be turned round, refuelled and sent on their way.

Landing ships carrying equipment to Syria have been spotted going through the narrow straits of the Bosphorus. YouTube images shows armoured fighting vehicles of types never before sold to the Syrians “in action” inside Syria.

Most bizarre of all in terms of operational security, “selfie” photos taken by Russian service personnel in Syria betray not just their presence but give some indication of the units from which they are drawn.

So that is what can be seen without the resources of a major intelligence service. But clearly Russia’s activities have prompted a good deal of interest from the Americans.

Classic ‘air bridge’

US spokesmen have urged the Russians to scale back their support for Mr Assad. And since these pleas have fallen on deaf ears, US officials are becoming rather less reticent on commenting on what they have seen of Russian activities on the ground.

So US sources are widely quoted as describing the presence of small numbers of Russian T-90 tanks in Syria, heavy artillery and mobile SA-22 air defences, though none of this has been independently verified.

That something of a Russian build-up is under way is not in doubt.

Russia is building its capabilities in Syria, but to what end? What is the purpose of all of this?

Determining President Vladimir Putin’s intentions is no easy matter. What is clear though is that the scale of the Russian effort so far is insufficient to change the balance of forces on the ground.

Even if the additional equipment were all to be passed to the Syrian Army it might only give them a local advantage.

Russia’s President Putin has been a key ally of Bashar al-Assad’s government

What is going on is more subtle and, for now, as much a signal as a demonstration of practical intent.

Russia is putting into place all of the elements to be able to operate a classic “air bridge” – establishing a secure base in Syria with the capacity to handle enough aircraft to allow for the rapid reinforcement of the Assad regime if needed.

Once established, such a base could perform other functions. There has been speculation that Moscow might at some stage want to deploy ground attack aircraft of its own. Russian troops – though many experts believe this is unlikely – might need to become directly engaged in the fighting. A secure airport at Latakia opens up a range of options.

More important still is the signal this all sends about Moscow’s foreign policy ambitions and the role that it intends to play in Syria and the wider region. There was a time after the end of the Cold War when Russia’s moribund navy never ventured into the Mediterranean and its foreign policy ambitions were greatly curtailed.

Today Mr Putin sees a much more expansive role for Russia and he sees his toehold in Syria on the coast at Tartus as providing the basis for a more significant foothold in the region.

Russia’s backing for Mr Assad should be seen not as a vote of confidence in Syria’s embattled president but as an investment in a country where Russia believes it can play out its foreign policy role.

Indeed, Mr Putin’s military deployments signal that he will not let the Assad regime fall. This does not mean Mr Assad will be there forever. Russian diplomacy is working in tandem with its military policy exploring all avenues for reaching some sort of interim deal in which Mr Assad might stay on for at least the time being.

But Russia’s horizons in Syria probably extend well beyond Mr Assad’s active presence – a reflection of Russia’s concerns about militant Islam and wider trends in the region and also its belief that western remedies in the Middle East have been an unmitigated disaster.

Russia’s military deployments do though present some practical problems for the West, not least for Washington which has an active air campaign under way in Syrian air space.

What happens if Russia does begin to play a direct military role? Who will it be fighting – so-called Islamic State or all of Mr Assad’s enemies, some of whom at least are allies of the West?

Up to now Syrian government forces have not tried to interfere with the US-led air campaign. But what problems might the presence of Russian-manned air defences lead to? Syria’s grim and multifaceted civil war is just about to get a whole lot more complicated.


Is Another Human Living Inside You?

September 18, 2015

by David Robson


Once upon a time, your origins were easy to understand. Your dad met your mum, they had some fun, and from a tiny fertilised egg you emerged kicking and screaming into the world. You are half your mum, half your dad – and 100% yourself.

Except, that simple tale has now become a lot more complicated. Besides your genes from parents, you are a mosaic of viruses, bacteria – and potentially, other humans. Indeed, if you are a twin, you are particularly likely to be carrying bits of your sibling within your body and brain. Stranger still, they may be influencing how you act.

Humans are not unitary individuals but superorganisms,” says Peter Kramer at the University of Padua. “A very large number of different human and non-human individuals are all incessantly struggling inside us for control.” Together with Paola Bressan, he recently wrote a paper in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science, calling for psychologists and psychiatrists to appreciate the ways this may influence our behaviour.

That may sound alarming, but it has long been known that our bodies are really a mishmash of many different organisms. Microbes in your gut can produce neurotransmitters that alter your mood; some scientists have even proposed that the microbes may sway your appetite, so that you crave their favourite food. An infection of a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, meanwhile, might just lead you to your death. In nature, the microbe warps rats’ brains so that they are attracted to cats, which will then offer a cosy home for it to reproduce. But humans can be infected and subjected to the same kind of mind control too: the microbe seems to make someone risky, and increases the chance they will suffer from schizophrenia or suicidal depression. Currently, around a third of British meat carries this parasite, for instance – despite the fact an infection could contribute to these mental illnesses. “We should stop this,” says Kramer.

Infiltrating siblings

In this light, it becomes clear that our actions are not entirely our own. It’s enough to make you question your sense of identity, but the idea of infiltration becomes even more eerie when you realise that your brain has not just been invaded by tiny microbes – but also by other human beings.

The most visible example might be a case of conjoined twins sharing a brain, says Kramer, but even regular twins could have shared organs without realising it. During early development, cells can be passed between twins or triplets. Once considered a rare occurrence, we now know it is surprisingly common. Around 8% of non-identical twins and 21% of triplets, for example, have not one, but two blood groups: one produced by their own cells, and one produced by “alien” cells absorbed from their twin. They are, in other words, a chimera – a fusion of two bodies – and it may occur in many organs, including the brain.

A chimera brain could have serious consequences. For instance, we know that the arrangement of different brain regions can be crucial for its function – but the presence of foreign tissue, being directed by different genes carrying a different blueprint, may throw that intricate design into disarray. This may explain, for instance, why twins are less likely to be right-handed – a simple trait that normally relies on the relative organisation of the right and the left hemispheres. Perhaps chimerism has upset the balance.

Even if you do not think you ever had a twin, there are many other ways you might be invaded by another human’s cells. It’s possible, for instance, that you started off as two foetuses in the womb, but the twins merged during early development. Since it occurs at such an early age of development, the cells can become incorporated into the tissue and seem to develop normally, yet they are carrying another person’s genetic blueprint. “You look like one person, but you have the cells of another person in you – effectively, you have always been two people,” says Kramer. In one extreme case, a woman was surprised to be told that she was not the biological mother of her two children (See “Brother from another mother”, left). Alternatively, cells from an older sibling might stay around the mother’s body, only to find their way into your body after you are conceived.

However it happens, it’s perfectly plausible that tissue from another human could cause the brain to develop in unexpected ways, says Lee Nelson from the University of Washington. She’s currently examining whether cells from the mother herself may be implanted in the baby brain. “A difference in the amount, cell type, or the time during development at which the cells were acquired could all result in abnormalities,” she says.

Nelson has found that even as an adult, you are not immune from human invaders. A couple of years ago, Nelson and William Chan at the University of Alberta in Edmonton took slices of women’s brain tissue and screened their genome for signs of the Y-chromosome. Around 63% were harbouring male cells. “Not only did we find male DNA in female human brains as a general observation, we found it to be present in multiple brain regions,” says Chan. In other words, their brains were speckled with cells from a man’s body. One logical conclusion is that it came from a baby: somehow, her own son’s stem cells had made it through the placenta and lodged in her brain. Strangely, this seemed to decrease the chances that the mother would subsequently develop Alzheimer’s – though exactly why remains a mystery. Some researchers are even beginning to wonder whether these cells might influence a mother’s mindset during pregnancy.

Our knowledge of the human “superorganism” is still in its infancy, so many of the consequences are purely theoretical at the moment. Kramer and Bressan’s aim with their paper was not to give definitive answers, but to enlighten other psychologists and psychiatrists about the many entities that make us who we are today. “We cannot understand human behaviour by considering only one or the other individual,” Kramer says. “Ultimately, we must understand them all to understand how ‘we’ behave.”

For instance, scientists often compare sets of twins to understand the origins of behaviour, but the fact that even non-identical twins may have swapped bits of brain tissue might have muddied those results. We should be particularly careful when using these twin studies to compare conditions such as schizophrenia that may arise from faulty brain organisation, Bressan and Kramer say.

In general, however, we shouldn’t feel hostile towards these invaders – after all, they made you who you are today. “I think it is now clear that our natural immigrants are with us for the long-term, for better or for worse,” says Nelson. “And I would think “for better” outweighs ‘for worse’.”

David Robson is BBC Future’s feature writer.


TSA Doesn’t Care That Its Luggage Locks Have Been Hacked

September 17, 2015

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

In a spectacular failure of a “back door” designed to give law enforcement exclusive access to private places, hackers have made the “master keys” for Transportation Security Administration-recognized luggage locks available to anyone with a 3D printer.

The TSA-recognized luggage locks were a much-vaunted solution to a post-9/11 conundrum: how to let people lock their luggage, on the one hand, but let the TSA inspect it without resorting to bolt cutters, on the other.

When the locks were first introduced in 2003, TSA official Ken Lauterstein described them as part of the agency’s efforts to develop “practical solutions that contribute toward our goal of providing world-class security and world-class customer service.”

Now that they’ve been hacked, however, TSA says it doesn’t really care one way or another.

The reported ability to create keys for TSA-approved suitcase locks from a digital image does not create a threat to aviation security,” wrote TSA spokesperson Mike England in an email to The Intercept.

These consumer products are ‘peace of mind’ devices, not part of TSA’s aviation security regime,” England wrote.

Carried and checked bags are subject to the TSA’s electronic screening and manual inspection. In addition, the reported availability of keys to unauthorized persons causes no loss of physical security to bags while they are under TSA control. In fact, the vast majority of bags are not locked when checked in prior to flight.”

In other words: not our problem.

How the Keys Were Hacked

Last month, security enthusiasts and members of a lockpicking forum on Reddit began circulating a nearly year-old Washington Post story about “the secret life of baggage,” and how the TSA handles and inspects airport luggage.

What no one had previously noticed was that the article included close-up photos of the “master keys” to TSA-approved luggage locks — which it turns out, are really easy to copy, as long as you can see the pattern of the teeth and have access to a 3D printer.

The photos were removed from the Post’s website, but not before privacy devotees spread the images far and wide.

Then, according to his self-published timeline, Shahab Shawn Sheikhzadeh, a system administrator and lockpicker, obtained an official-looking document with even more detailed imagery. Sheikhzadeh told The Intercept that anonymous hackers inspired by the Washington Post photos found a 2008 “Guide to Travel Sentry Passkeys” posted on Travel Sentry’s website.

Travel Sentry is the organization responsible for generating and enforcing security guidelines for TSA-approved locks, working with both the government and private manufacturers to guarantee its standards are being met. It does not sell or manufacture locks itself.

Steven Knuchel, a hacker/security researcher who goes by Xylitol or Xyl2k, used the detailed images obtained from the Travel Sentry website to create the kind of files that 3D printers use to produce models.

Since the files were first published, several people have demonstrated that they work, using inexpensive 3D printing plastic called PLA.

The geniuses @TSA require us to use luggage locks for which they have master keys. Now we all have those keys. pic.twitter.com/cdT487Elxj

  • J0hnny Xm4s (@J0hnnyXm4s) September 10, 2015

TSA’s Response

TSA’s nonchalant response to the proliferation of master keys is at odds with how the agency has historically advertised the approved locks.

There’s a difference in how TSA talks about the locks to travelers and the statement they made,” said Chris Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, after hearing the TSA’s statement to The Intercept.

Over the years, TSA has published various blog posts trumpeting the power of the locks to prevent all theft, writing, for instance, that the locks “will prevent anyone from removing items out of your … bags.”

Soghoian described that post as an example of TSA “lying to consumers” in a tweet. “There’s nothing in that blog post about ‘peace of mind’” being the reason for the locks, Soghoian told The Intercept.

Security experts, by comparison, have long recognized that TSA locks do not fully protect your belongings. University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Matt Blaze told Wired that he sometimes picks his own TSA-recognized lock to save time looking for the actual key, because it’s faster.

Chris McGoey, a security consultant specializing in travel safety, told the Intercept that “there are several ways of opening TSA locks short of having a 3D printer.” He explained that “TSA locks on luggage is only one step above having no lock at all especially on soft-sided luggage with zippers.”

The Problem With Backdoors

Although the actual impact remains unclear, the hacking of the master keys is a powerful example of the problem with creating government backdoors to bypass security, physically or digitally.

Most security experts and computer scientists believe backdoors for law enforcement inevitably make systems less secure, and easier for bad actors to break into.

Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at Berkeley, wrote on the Lawfare blog about the TSA locks and how they are “similar in spirit to what [FBI] Director [James] Comey desires for encrypted phones.”

Comey has recently been trying to convince technology companies to design some sort of special way for his agents to access encrypted communications on digital devices. But companies including Apple and Google have resisted this pressure, insisting that developing backdoors will only weaken security that they have worked hard to improve for the sake of average customers around the world.

In theory, only the Transportation Security Agency or other screeners should be able to open a TSA lock using one of their master keys,” Weaver wrote. “All others, notably baggage handlers and hotel staff, should be unable to surreptitiously open these locks. … Unfortunately for everyone, a TSA agent and the Washington Post revealed the secret. … The TSA backdoor has failed.”

Xylitol, the GitHub user who published the blueprint of the keys, said that was his point. “This is actually the perfect example for why we shouldn’t trust a government with secret backdoor keys (or any kind of other backdoors),” he wrote in an email to The Intercept. “Security with backdoor[s] is not security and inevitably exposes everyone.”

Soghoian tweeted a congratulations to the Post and TSA “for proving the stupidity of key escrow,” the arrangement in which keys needed to decrypt communications are held in escrow to be accessed by a third party if necessary. End-to-end encryption, which the FBI and the Justice Department have continually urged against, only allows for the sender and the recipient of a message to hold onto keys to decrypt the message.


Nine things that shape your identity before birth


The making of you

Your story didn’t begin when you were born.

Before you took your first breath, your appearance and much of your ‘instinctive’ behaviour had already been formed. Exactly how you spent the nine months developing from a microscopic cell to a human baby helped make you who you are today.

In the beginning

One in 250 million of your father’s sperm managed to navigate a perilous journey to reach your mother’s egg – kick starting the process that made you.

Your blueprint was already decided from the very first cell. The winning sperm determined your gender. If it contained an X chromosome, you were female; if it contained a Y chromosome, you were male. Your father’s sperm combined with your mother’s egg to create a brand new collection of genes. The effects of these genes then played out in the womb over the next nine months to make a unique, new human being – you.

You made it through the first round

At six days old, when you were just a clump of cells, you faced a critical test.

Already transferred to your mother’s womb, to continue to develop, you needed to implant yourself into its lining. But mothers have high standards – an embryo must be healthy to be worth nourishing for the next nine months. Around two-thirds of embryos fail at this stage or soon after and are lost, often before their mothers know they existed. In your case, your cells released the chemical signal that showed they were developing properly. You received a berth in your mother’s womb.

Your facial features formed

Four weeks in, the shape of your body and limbs was emerging and your most recognisable features were about to form.

Over the next few weeks, your face blossomed into shape as 14 different structures came together to make a scaffold for intricate layers of tissue. Human faces all share the same structures, but no two faces are exactly the same. Your face was the result of your genes, and the precise timing of when they were switched on during this critical process. Scientists think there could be hundreds of switches in your DNA that carefully and subtly choreograph the making of our features.

Left- or right-handed

At eight weeks you graduated from an embryo to a foetus. A foetus’ age is the duration of its gestation – two weeks more than time since conception.

Your limbs had developed by 11 weeks and you began to move and flex them. You were beginning to favour one side over the other. You might have begun to stretch one arm more than the other, or go on to suck one particular thumb. Nine out of ten foetuses become right-handed, one out of ten choose the left, and fewer than 1% are ambidextrous – equally comfortable using both sides. The preference you developed is thought to be largely down to your genes.

One fingerprint set in 7 billion

As you continued to move around inside the womb, cushioned in amniotic fluid, another of your unique traits formed.

The layers of skin around your fingers began to wrinkle, pushing against the amniotic fluid surrounding them. This interaction with your environment helped mould a unique combination of arches, loops and whorls in your fingertips. Even identical twins experience slightly different pressures from the amniotic fluid and develop subtly different patterns. By 17 weeks, you had a set of 10 fingerprints that would distinguish you from the seven billion other people in the world.

Predicting who you might find appealing

As your body was taking shape, you were also developing a signature immune system inside your body.

By 14 weeks you were making human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins, which help your immune system recognise bacteria and viruses. There are thousands of possible combinations of HLAs – you inherited your set from your parents. One theory suggests that HLA proteins change our aroma to other adults, and that we choose a sexual partner with a very different HLA makeup, and therefore smell, to our own. So your immune system developed before birth may have some surprising effects later in life

How ‘masculine’ is your brain?

By now you had male or female genitals, determined by the size of a dose of testosterone at eight weeks. Now a second dose helped shape your brain.

From 15 weeks, male foetuses receive a big surge in testosterone, created in their testicles. Female foetuses receive a much lower dose from their mother and their adrenal gland. Around this time, aspects of your personality were being connected in your brain. Exposure to high levels of testosterone is thought to contribute to more ‘male-type’ behaviours like risk-taking. Curiously, people exposed to higher testosterone in the womb also have a longer ring-finger relative to their index finger.

Seeing the world your way

By 28 weeks your brain and body were well developed, so you were almost ready to see the world at first-hand.

Two eyes lined with colour-sensing cone cells had developed. Pigments that could detect short (blue), medium (green) or long (red) wavelengths of light were being produced. Most people can detect 10 million different colours once born. But 8% of males and 0.5% of females are born colour-blind, without all the necessary pigments. Some people are born with a fourth type of pigment that senses wavelengths between red and green, so they see colours even more vividly.

Your final countdown to birth

Over nine months you had grown from one cell to a trillion or so. Your size at birth depended on many things, including your race, gender and genes.

But external factors like your mother’s diet, stress levels and smoking status also played a role. One emerging idea is that the environment in your mother’s womb might have changed chemical markers within your DNA that control how your genes were switched on and off as you grew. And evidence suggests your birth weight might impact aspects of your health later in life, such as body mass index, risk of diabetes and cognitive performance. Your time in the womb left its long-lasting mark on you.


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